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FairfaxIT: Linux: The electoral test that pencil and paper meet

Jul 24, 2001, 22:39 (3 Talkback[s])

Debian has been selected as the platform to form the foundation of an electronic voting system in Australia. This article provides some details behind the contractor's decision to go with open source/Free Software in general, and Debian in specific:

"The only platform that provided robustness and voter confidence was GNU Debian Linux, with all source code released under the General Public License (GPL).

"Online voting is a highly critical system, not in the sense that someone's life depends on it, but it has to be accurate and reliable and available on the day," Boughton said."

Complete Story

Here's the press release:

The ACT Electoral Commision has chosen Software Improvements as the contractor to develop an Electronic Voting and Vote Counting System. The system will be available to voters at selected polling centres for the next ACT Legislative Assembly Election.

The system will allow some voters to show preferences for candidates via an on-screen ballot form using a simplified keyboard. Their votes will be stored electronically until the poll closes. The votes will then be counted electronically.

Following data entry of conventional paper ballots after polling has closed, these votes will also be counted electronically and combined with the electronic voting data to produce the election results according to the ACT?s Hare-Clark electoral system.

The need for high voter confidence in the system is clear. In responding to the tender Software Improvements and its subcontractors were able to cite extensive experience in the field of high integrity software. The Software Improvements solution detailed an innovative approach to meeting the many expectations the community has of this type of system.

Experts from the Australian National University?s Research School of Information Sciences and Engineering and developers from VA Linux Systems are part of the Software Improvements team developing the new system.

At the October election, voters can expect at the selected polling places:

  • a choice of voting, either electronically or in the conventional way,
  • a computer demonstrating the system, outside the polling place,
  • assistance for sight impaired voters,
  • guidance in several rr different languages,
  • a simple system of voting, as easy to use as an automatic teller machine, and
  • a vote collection and counting system as transparent as conventional methods.

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