Surprise: Sequoia To Open Source E-voting Code

from the didn't-see-that-coming dept

Sequoia Voting Systems had been one of the “big three” e-voting providers, along with Diebold (Premiere) and ES&S. All three companies were notorious for massive amounts of secrecy and many, many, many reports of faulty machines with weak security. Sequoia’s biggest problem — which showed up in election after election after election after election — was that it seemed to count the votes differently every time. That seems like a rather big flaw. The company also threatened computer security expert Ed Felten after the State of New Jersey asked him to look at Sequoia’s code.

Just last week there were reports that Sequoia had accidentally revealed some of its source code — but this week Sequoia has surprised a lot of people by announcing plans for a new e-voting system which will have open source e-voting software included. The code will be released to the public next month.

This is definitely a big (and surprising) step forward. The Wired link above tries to speculate why — but I’d argue the most obvious reason (not mentioned in that article) is that Sequoia’s two largest competitors, ES&S and Diebold/Premiere merged last month, suddenly making Sequoia a much smaller player in the space (I believe it was already the number three player…). Going open source isn’t just a way to improve its code and improve trust in the machines, but also a way to stand out against a much larger competitor.

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Companies: sequoia

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Comments on “Surprise: Sequoia To Open Source E-voting Code”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Going open source isn’t just a way to improve its code and improve trust in the machines, but also a way to stand out against a much larger competitor.

They may also realize that they are just about to be majorly screwed after the code release, where it appears their code isn’t entirely as per spec. They may be attempting to grenade the entire market.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:


Sequoia will be gone within two years. Not because of their open sourcing or not open sourcing their code. Not even really because of the problems in their voting machines.

No, they’ll be gone because the ES&S and the McCarthy Group are well known for having large investments by Senators and Representatives. They’ll magically become the “approved” standardized eVoting machine providers within two elections.

I. M. Speakings says:

Why is Sequoia Voting Sytems revealing eVote code?

This is a great brainstorm from some of the management of Sequoia Voting Systems. It is very much counter-intuitive. Why would any voting machine company want to reveal any of its code that is used in their system? The answer is of course that they gain credibility and public cofidence by doing so. Don’t forget there is an election coming up shortly, in many communities around the United States of America, and one also on the other side of the world in Afghanistan. Hopefully this is all on the up and up and not just a red herring to inspire false or misplaced confidence. The real issue with regard to the code that is in the electronic voting machine (computer) is: What is the code in the voting machine at the time the votes are being counted by the machine? It is one thing to reveal the code that is supposed to be in the computerized voting machine and another to know what the code is when the votes are being counted.

There has been testimony give given before a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives by someone named (either Clinton Curtis or Curtis Clinton) who told that he could program these macines to cause a win for any candidate in an election. One technique was to switch the tallies when the chosen candidate had less than 49% and the opponent had over 51%.

It has also been demonstated by persons who investigate voting machines and voting fraud possibilities that some machines, like one optical scan with ballot cards (which have now been redefined as paper ballots) can have subprogams inserted into the code, to produce the desired result. Of course after the election is over this additional code can be removed by reversing the process, in putting the correct code.

The ovious solution here is to download and print the code and programn from the computer of the electronic voting machine, just before the election begins, and just after the polls close.

There are other thing that can be done to prevent dificulties and fraud in elections. These include 24 hour voting. Making a video of the election all day long as people come in. Alphabetical order voting might help. Be sure that every voter votes only once in one location regardless of how many addresses or houses or residences he or she has. Absentee ballots are a problem because it enables fraud by someone who chooses to vote in another community or state or county on Election Day. To combat this possibility photos should be taken of all voters and people with the same name compared to see if they are the same person. If anyone does this they should loose their right to vote for 7 years. Likewise any political party found to be promoting election fraud should be banned from the ballot for 7 years. Any cnadidate who is found to have recieved fraudulant votes in any election, should have that count of fraudulant vote multiplied by 7 and then that number subtracted from the vote tally that this candidate recieved. See following formula:


(total vote tally for candidate) – ( 7 x fraudulant votes)=

(Total number of votes recieved in election for candidate )


Sean T Henry (profile) says:

Re: Why is Sequoia Voting Sytems revealing eVote code?

The only problem I really see is “Any cnadidate who is found to have recieved fraudulant votes in any election, should have that count of fraudulant vote multiplied by 7 and then that number subtracted from the vote tally that this candidate recieved.”

People will try doing this to remove votes from those who they do not want to win.

Anonymous Coward says:

Open Source - Not

Sequoia has announced that it plans to *disclose* a version of source code for *one* of its machines.

First, disclosed source is not the same as open source. From the linked wired article: “Open-source software allows the public to participate in the actual development of the software. Whereas Sequoia’s public source, or disclosed-source, software only allows the public to see software that its developers have already created.”

Second, this would only be be for one of their machines (and perhaps only one version and perhaps incomplete at that). That is if it even happens, as I don’t think they’ve set a release date. Duke Nukem Forever, anyone?

So overall, Sequoia seems to be a long way from actually going “open source” in any meaningful way.

Derek Reed says:

Re: Open Source - Not

Agreed, but to DH’s point above, Sequoia’s likely to go down in flames fast with that other merger happening. There’s pretty close to 0 hope for the future of elections, but what little there is probably behind Sequoia now. I’d say support the fuck out of them and cross your damn fingers, or start your own multi million dollar open source e-voting company with senators in your pocket. Oh, you don’t have that? neither do I.

DocMenach (profile) says:

Re: Open Source - Not

Well, allowing the public to see the source code will still create the benefit of having a lot more eyes on it, thereby allowing people to make suggestions for how it could be improved. It may not actually be open source, but it is still a step in the right direction.

I am also not surprised that they are doing it only for one machine at first. They are experimenting to see if it actually creates any advantages for them. I’m sure that if it does then we will see them follow this approach (and maybe even make it actually open source) for more machines in the future.

It may be a long way from ideal, but at least they are heading the right way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Fun with the article's title.

I just ran the title of this article through Google and it confirmed my suspicion:
Did you mean: e voting

If you were to say the word “Evoting” aloud, it sounds different than “E-Voting” would.

But on second thought, Evoting wouldn’t be a bad portmanteau for something that had evolution and took really any word ending in -ting.

Hmm. I could have fun with this title all day.

Chris Maresca (profile) says:

Why do we need this?

There are at least three other open source voting systems, all of which have been proven in national elections, one of which was at least 4x the size of any USA election.

Seem redundant to me. Now, if they had announced an open hardware platform for running existing open source voting software, that might have been interesting. But, while this might have been interesting 3-5 years ago, now it just smacks of desperation.


Brent Turner (profile) says:

Sequoia uses bad words... stolen code...

Glad to see Sequoia make a last ditch effort to avoid BK – but still it is a sad state of the voting system crisis. A thousand hats tipped to Dechert and OVC for the pressure that now shows result- albeit baby steps. Let’s hope to see ” real ” international standard open source / paper ballot printing systems in the near future !!

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