Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has signed into law a new bill mandating the use of open source software for all electronic voting machines used in the state.
The new law means that any electronic voting machines used in the state from the start of the year will have to make use of software that is publicly accessible and may be used to independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the operating and tallying procedures to be employed at any election.
The reliability of electronic voting machines has become the matter of intense scrutiny following recent US Presidential elections. A September 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office noted: while electronic voting systems hold promise for improving the election process, numerous entities have raised concerns about their security and reliability.
While the GAO added that there is no consensus among election official and other experts on their pervasiveness, it also noted instances of weak security controls, system design flaws, inadequate system version control, inadequate security testing, incorrect system configuration, poor security management, and vague or incomplete voting system standards.
Many states are looking at ways of increasing voter confidence by enabling the creation of paper records while also following the Help America Vote Act to expand the use of electronic voting systems.
Wisconsin’s Assembly Bill 627 amends existing laws to ensure that if an electronic voting machine is used it generates a paper ballot that is verifiable before the voter leaves the machine and can be used for a manual count, but goes further in mandating code accessibility.
The law also states: the municipal clerk shall provide to any person, upon request, at the expense of the municipality, the coding for the software that the municipality uses to operate the system and to tally the votes cast.
US voting machine giant Diebold Inc pulled out of selling its machines in North Carolina shortly before Christmas in response to a law that would require it to place the source code for its software in escrow. Diebold had argued that as its machines are based on Microsoft Corp’s Windows it was not in a position to make the source code available.