San Francisco Open Source Voting System Project Continues On

This update on San Francisco's project to develop and certify the country's first open source voting system was submitted by OSI Individual Member Chris Jerdonek. While Chris is a member (and President) of the San Francisco Elections Commission, he is providing this update as an individual and not in his official capacity as a Commissioner. Chirs' e-mail is, chris@sfopenvoting.org and a website with that domain is expected soon.

Some "Action Items"

Below are some things you can do to help the effort:

  • Show support by following @SFOpenVoting on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SFOpenVoting
  • Retweet the following tweet about a recent front-page news story to help spread the word: https://twitter.com/SFOpenVoting/status/834136200663310336
  • Reply to Chris with the words "keep me posted" if you'd like me to notify you sooner if something interesting happens related to the project (e.g. an RFP or job posting getting posted, an important Commission meeting coming up, the publishing of a news piece about SF open source voting, etc).
  • Reply to Chris with the words "might want to help" if you might like to help organize or be part of a core group of activists to help build more support and otherwise help the project succeed. This would likely start off with a small organizing meeting.
  • Show your support and come watch the next Elections Commission meeting on Wed, April 19 at 6pm in Room 408 of San Francisco City Hall: http://sfgov.org/electionscommission/

San Francisco Examiner Article

At the February 15 Elections Commission meeting, the Elections Commission voted unanimously to ask the Mayor's Office to allocate $4 million towards initial development of the open source voting project for the 2018-19 fiscal year (from Aug. 2018 - July 2019). This would go towards initial development once the planning phase is complete.

The San Francisco Examiner wrote a good article about this development here (with the headline appearing on the front page): http://www.sfexaminer.com/sfs-elections-commission-asks-mayor-put-4m-toward-open-source-voting-system/

Latest Project Updates

The open source voting project is starting to gain some definition. For the latest, read the March 2017 Director's Report in the agenda packet of last week's March 15 Elections Commission meeting: http://sfgov.org/electionscommission/commission-agenda-packet-march-15-2017

A few highlights from the report:

  • Very soon (perhaps within the next few days), the Department will be posting a job opening for a senior staff position to assist with the project.
  • In addition, by the end of March or so, the Department will be issuing an RFP for an outside contractor to help plan and create a "business case" for the project.
  • Software for the project will be released under version 3 of the GNU General Public License where possible. (GPL-3.0 is a copyleft license, which means that future changes would also be assured open source.)
  • The software is projected to be released to the public as it is written, which would be great for increased public visibility and transparency.

Citizen's Advisory Committee

Also at last week's Elections Commission meeting, the Commission started discussing the idea of forming a Citizen's Advisory Committee to help guide the open source voting project. This is an idea that was raised at the February meeting, as well as previously.

At the meeting, it was suggested that the committee help advise primarily on technical matters -- things like agile procurement approaches, project management, open source issues, and engineering / architecture issues.

The Commission will be taking this up again at its April meeting on April 19 (and possibly voting on it).

If you might be interested in serving on the committee, you are encouraged to listen to the discussion from last week's meeting to get an idea of what it might be like (starting at 11 mins, 18 sec): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2-DX8UNqY0&t=11m18s

(And if you know someone who might be good to serve on such a committee, please forward them this info!)

FairVote California house party (recap)

In early March, Chris spoke about San Francisco's open source voting project at a house party organized by FairVote California. Thank you to FairVote California for having me!

If anyone would like me to speak to a group of people about the project, just shoot me an e-mail. It would only require 5 minutes or so of a group's time.

GET Summit (upcoming: May 17-18)

On May 17-18 in San Francisco, there will be a conference on open source and election technology issues called the GET Summit: https://www.getsummit.org

The conference is being organized by Startup Policy Lab (SPL) and has an amazing line-up of many speakers, including people like California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and former Federal Elections Commissioner (FEC) Ann Ravel. In September 2016, Alex Padilla said on television that "open source [voting] is the ultimate in transparency and accountability for all." And Ann Ravel made headlines last month with her very public resignation from the FEC. See the conference website for the latest speaker list.

So that's all folks! Please follow @SFOpenVoting on Twitter if you haven't yet, and thank you for all your continued interest and support!

We thank Chris Jerdonek for his work in raising awareness of San Francisco's efforts to develop an open source voting system and sharing these updates with us here at the OSI and the larger open source software community.