San Francisco May Use Open Source Voting System

The city of San Francisco’s local government may be the first one to use an open source voting system. If the city manages to complete the process successfully, it will be the first place in the country to use open source voting. It is something that has been considered by many people for years but recently $300,000 has been set aside to study the possibility.

Elections Director John Arntz has opened discussions with the consulting group Slalom which will create a report about open source voting. It is expected to be completed by January. It is slated to cost $175,000 and focus on what San Francisco might encounter if it chooses to go through with such a system.

Those in favor of an open source voting system say that it would provide San Francisco with transparency, security, and control. In light of last year’s voting issues, such features are desirable.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla supports such a system so long as it passes the certification protocols in place for California. He is already endorsing the Voting Moderation Act for 2018 which is a measure that would overhaul and update voting machines in the state.

An advantage to open source voting systems is that they allow programmers to access the code as they need to in order to fix bugs and make adjustments as needed. Under the current system, private vendors control all of the coding so any adjustments have to be made through them. By having access to the code, programmers will also understand how votes are tallied.

It could also save the city of San Francisco money in the long run. It spends over $2 million currently on voting systems through the vendor Dominion. The city has a contract with them through 2018 for $2.3 million. The amount of money to be saved is unclear.

There are those that have critiques of open source voting. One of the main issues with it is having enough people to monitor and fix issues in the coding. Just because it’s open source does not mean that the code will be more secure, though it can be secured by the city. If it is accessed by hackers, most likely someone will try to patch it.

For now though, San Francisco’s switch to open source voting will be contingent on the findings of the report when it is done in January. More funding will be given to the project depending on the determinations that are made. But it is just the beginning of a long process.