California Secretary of State Debra Bowen is in the tech news again, but I'm not at all surprised. It's an election year. And of course, as another election rolls around, the subject of e-voting rises to the surface.
Bowen is once again on the stump for open source software-based voting machines. She recently participated in an e-voting panel discussion at MIT's Emerging Technology (EmTech) Conference, where she reiterated the position that voters and election officials alike would benefit from the increased transparency open source technology brings to the table.
According to Network World, she argued:
"We're basically asking a county IT professional, who may or may not have any experience in crypto-security, to purchase a system. The software is proprietary. In most cases, the person who does the purchase has no legal right to review the software, even if they knew what they were reviewing."
Open source software would change that. Details about how the software works would be available to those who are making purchasing decisions.
On the other hand, the argument could be made, as it often is about open source software generally, that the availability of the code makes it particularly vulnerable to hacking and exploits. The point is well taken and certainly worth considering. But as an independent review of voting machines commissioned by Bowen revealed, every kind of voting machine has flaws and is subject to hacks -- even the proprietary ones. It's a matter of deciding which ones present the least risk.
In Bowen's view, open source is the best choice.