Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Open Source, Voting Equipment Certification Process to be discussed at upcoming hearings

The Senate elections committee, chaired by State Sen. Debra Bowen has scheduled public hearings on two major voting technology issues -- open source and the certification process. In announcing the hearings, Bowen said, "To restore people’s faith in the system and ensure ballots are tallied accurately, we need to turn on the lights and let people see the nuts and bolts of how the technology works and how it’s tested for accuracy.”

The Open Source hearing takes place in Sacramento on Wednesday, February 8, 9 a.m. The Certification hearing will be in Menlo Park on Wednesday, February 16, 1 p.m.

More details from the Jan. 27 news release announcing the hearings are featured below.


Questions about whether California should move toward using electronic voting systems that rely on “open source software” and how exactly voting systems are tested and certified for use will be the subject of two hearings scheduled today by Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee.


The first hearing on February 8th will focus on the open source software issue. “Open source software” has been around for several decades, but it’s become more popular in recent years. Some of the more well-known names in the open source software world are Firefox (an Internet browser), Linux (an operating system), and Red Hat (which sells and supports a version of Linux for businesses). Witnesses will include experts on the benefits and shortcomings of open source software in general, businesses and government agencies that rely on open source software, experts on the challenges of using open source software in an electoral setting, and voting machine vendors. The hearing will be in Room 112 at the State Capitol and will begin at 9:00 a.m.


The second hearing on February 16th will look at the process of how exactly voting systems are certified for use in California. Witnesses will discuss how the process works, what roles the Elections Assistance Commission, the Independent Testing Authorities (ITA), the voting machine vendors, and the state play in the process – and about what the flaws are in the current system. The hearing will be held in the Menlo Park City Council Chambers at 1:00 p.m. The following day, researchers from around the U.S. who are studying voting technology as part of ACCURATE (A Center for Correct, Usable, Reliable, Auditable, and Transparent Elections) will be meeting in Menlo Park, led by nationally-recognized Johns Hopkins University Professor Avi Rubin.


“The federal testing process is notoriously weak and it’s done in secret,” continued Bowen. “These supposedly ‘independent testing authorities’ are not only paid for by the voting machine industry, but they also conduct their tests behind closed doors. We need to do away with the secrecy and the ‘Trust us, we know what we’re doing’ approach the voting machine vendors and the Secretary of State are taking with this issue, because California voters deserve a process that’s as open and transparent as possible.”

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