CAVO encouraged by—and encouraging—state and local governments’ open source elections systems.

OSI Affiliate Member, California Association of Voting Officials (CAVO) is reporting significant developments to advance the use of Open Source Software within electronic voting systems.

According to CAVO, the PAVE Act, tendered by United States’ senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Kamala Harris of California, includes provisions to address financial barriers that could be incurred by state and local governments evaluating open source options for their elections systems.

CAVO communications director Brent Turner explained, the PAVE bill sets a variety of cybersecurity standards, and requires every voting machine used by a state or local government to undergo testing to affirm those requirements are met. In addition to the standards set forth in PAVE, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also has their own requirements. PAVE directs DHS to undertake this testing, of both the standards included in PAVE and their own, on behalf of the state or local government.

Turner added, “Local and state governments are of course also free to set their own additional cybersecurity standards for voting machines used in their jurisdictions beyond those identified in PAVE and by DHS”. Section 2216 of the PAVE bill states that DHS will cover the costs to test any open source technology against state or local voting standards. Turner noted this is critical for the adoption of open source options as “proprietary providers of voting technology can easily foot the bill themselves to have their product tested for compliance with those state or local standards, but open source projects may not have the resources to fund the certification process, thus eliminating themselves from consideration by state and local jurisdictions.”

“In essence, the PAVE bill makes it easier for state and local governments to use open source technology, or, at least, to make sure the cost of certification doesn’t get in the way.”

Open source voting pioneers Brian Fox and Alan Dechert have been working on open source solutions since Dechert’s first public demonstration of an open source election system in 2004. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, representing the 2nd District of Hawaii, was the first to include Open Source Software in federal legislation (H.R.5147), what Fox said at the time would, “give appropriate security direction to the nation's election officials. Congresswoman Gabbard is appreciated as a pioneer advocating the science of protecting our democracy."

CAVO expects such federal legislation to help expedite the development of open source voting systems in California, which can then serve as a model for other states. Turner emphasized, “We have been working on this for almost 20 years. We must now make sure that California Governor Newsom and Secretary of State Padilla understand that if we are to have safe and secure elections in the United States, we must immediately transition from the proprietary software model to a GPL licensed open source system.”

The state of New Hampshire, the city of San Francisco, and the United States' largest voting jurisdiction, Los Angeles, recently announced their intentions to deploy open source voting systems. In addition, the California Assembly recently passed CA AB 1784, which provides "matching funds" for counties developing open source voting systems. The bill, according to CAVO, is expected to make it through the Senate and be presented to Governor Newsom for signature.