Background

There are two fundamental problems with election systems today.  First, the systems themselves are technically deficient.  They simply do not securely, accurately, and reliably record all the votes and report the results timely and correctly.  This problem has persisted for a long time and many voters have come to distrust elections as a result.  Second, the vendors that supply the vast majority of election systems in this country operate in a closed, proprietary fashion that further endangers voter trust and confidence.  Too often, the major vendors claim that how their systems work is a “trade secret” and the public has no right to know what goes on inside the “black box.”  Together, these issues set the stage for deep distrust by many voters and erode confidence in the fairness of our elections.  We intend to solve this problem by providing a technically superior election system built, tested, and certified in an open transparent manner and ultimately owned by the voters who use it.
 
Many people understand that there are serious technical deficiencies with our voting systems.  Paper based systems that are hand marked by the voter and then interpreted by a machine (e.g., bubble sheets ready by an optical scanner) are functionally equivalent to the “butterfly ballots” from the Florida election of 2000.  The fact is that these systems have substantial error and failure rates because people mark the ballots incorrectly and/or because the machines that interpret the marks are get it wrong.  The 2008 Senate election in Minnesota provides recent proof that this problem is still present and still as serious as 2000.  Paperless touch screen systems are not trusted because they are subject to innocent error and malicious tampering, neither of which can be prevented or reliably discovered.  Attempts to retrofit “paper trails” to these devices have resulted in Rube Goldberg like contraptions that do not meet the goal of “voter verification” and are hard for elections officials to audit.  Both approaches are expensive because the vendors place market share and profit gains over providing good value to election officials and voters.
 
Fewer people know about the systemic problem behind the technical deficiencies.  There are only a small number of vendors providing election systems, and those vendors operate in an intensely secretive manner.  The leading vendors frequently assert in court and at public hearings that the design and coding of their systems are proprietary, trade secrets.  These vendors think that the public has no fundamental right to know how the machines they use to cast and count their votes work.  But, it’s not just the general public they keep in the dark – elections officials too are often prevented from examining and understanding how the machines work inside.  Further, in their contracts the vendors impose gag rules that prohibit those elections officials from publicly disclosing problems they find or suspect with the systems.  Finally, there is ample evidence that when the major vendors discover problems they attempt to conceal the issue rather than fully and promptly informing their customers.  This approach may work to the short term advantage of the vendors, but it certainly does not serve the interests of voters and election officials.  In the end, this lack of transparency is the real problem with our election systems, and it cannot be fixed with new hardware and software alone.  It must be addressed by a fundamentally different approach to creating, distributing, and supporting election systems.  An approach that values the voter over the bottom line and that is conducted in the light of day for all to see and verify.