[CAVO] Quicky fact sheet for CAVO use

Brent Turner turnerbrentm at gmail.com
Mon Feb 1 17:09:49 UTC 2016

SF Open Source Voting System Project


What is the project?

The Elections Commission is asking the Mayor and Board of Supervisors to
fund a project starting July 2016 to develop and certify an open source
voting system, as described in the Commission's November 2015 resolution.

What is a voting system?

A voting system is the hardware and software needed to cast and count
ballots, like precinct and vote-by-mail ballot scanners, and accessible
voting machines for people with disabilities.

What is an open source voting system?

An open source voting system is a voting system consisting of open source
software running on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS, aka “commodity”)

What is open source software?

Open source software is software that is free for anyone to inspect, use,
and improve.software is public and non-commercial. The Linux operating
system and the Chrome and Firefox browsers are three well-known examples of
open source software. Open source software is widely used by successful
technology companies large and small.

What are some advantages of open source?

Open source is more affordable, more flexible, and 100% transparent. There
are no licensing fees. San Francisco would be free to improve its system
without needing vendor permission. We could choose to work with anyone to
service the technology without restriction.

Who supports this idea?

In addition to open source and election integrity advocates, the Board of
Supervisors and the San Francisco Elections Commission both unanimously
passed resolutions supporting the development of an open source voting
system. The Board's December 2014 resolution was cosponsored by Supervisors
Wiener, Cohen, Kim, and Mar.

Why doesn't an open source voting system already exist?

The idea has been around for at least 10 years, but building one requires
leadership and financial resources. Existing vendors have not chosen to
create a public system.

Is Los Angeles County or Travis County, TX already building an open source

Both counties are working on building their own voting system, but neither
has committed to making their system open source.

How much will it cost?

Estimates from advocates to develop and certify a new system average around
$6 million spread over three years, plus money to deploy the system. San
Francisco's current, proprietary voting system had a price of $13.78
million in 2007.

1 See http://sfgov.org/electionscommission/motions-and-resolutions .

When would the system be ready?

The plan is structured around full deployment starting with the June 2020
election, with partial or pilot deployment starting with the November 2019
election or earlier.

Who would develop the system?

The Elections Commission recommends hiring a project director. The
Department of Elections could procure a project director using an RFP. The
project director could issue RFP's for outside organizations or firms to
develop and certify individual system components.

What public oversight would there be?

The Elections Commission oversees the Department of Elections. The Board of
Supervisors can approve development contracts. In addition, the Elections
Commission recommends the formation of a citizen advisory committee for
added transparency and public input.

Has the California Secretary of State spoken publicly about open source

Secretary of State Alex Padilla said publicly in November 2015 that he
thought it "quite possible" and "very likely" that an open source voting
system would be certified by his office during his current term. His staff
have been informed of the developments in San Francisco.

How can San Francisco reduce project risk?

A voting system divides naturally into several smaller components. The
Elections Commission recommends developing these components separately to
reduce complexity and risk, as opposed to putting “all your eggs in one
basket.” In addition, benefits accrue with each component that is developed
and certified, independent of the others getting finished.

How can San Francisco reduce project costs?

Once San Francisco starts the project, supportive organizations like
foundations, companies, and other jurisdictions would be able to contribute
financially to the project.

What about our current voting system?

San Francisco's current system is coming to the end of its useful life. To
support the development of an open source system, the Director of Elections
is seeking to extend the City's current voting system contract beyond its
December 2016 deadline.

What individuals and organizations might bid to build an open source system?

The Department of Elections issued an RFI in August 2015 expressing a
preference for open source. The following individuals and organizations
responded to the RFI with interest in open source: Mr. Brent Turner,
California Association of Voting Officials (CAVO); Mr. Alan Dechert;  Dr.
Juan Gilbert, University of Florida; and others

Where can I learn more?

The San Francisco Elections Commission's November 2015 resolution has more
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