04 Jan Voting machine source code must be available for review
Correction: the original story was based on an official summary that referred to the bill as introduced and did not take into account certain amendments. Under the law as enacted, the source code would be placed into escrow with the elections board. It would be analyzed in the case of a recount, but not open to the public. WTN very much regrets the error and any confusion it may have caused.
Madison, Wis. — Among the 15 bills governor Jim Doyle signed into law on Wednesday will require the software of touch-screen voting machines used in elections have its source code opened up to public viewing.
Municipalities that use electronic voting machines are responsible for providing to the public, on request, the code used.
Any voting machines to be used in the state already had to pass State Elections Board tests. Electronic voting machines, in particular, already were required to maintain their results tallies even if the power goes out, and to produce paper ballots that could be used in case of a recount. The new law also requires the paper ballots to be presented to voters for verification before being stored.
But of this bill’s provisions, perhaps the more influential in a wider sense is the requirement that municipalities provide source code, and the more general condition that “the coding for the software that is used to operate the system on election day and to tally the votes cast is publicly accessible and may be used to independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the operating and tallying procedures to be employed at any election.”
The bill passed the Assembly 91-4 and the Senate 29-2.
A federal Governmet Accountability Office report released in September 2005 said that specific makes of electronic voting machines nationwide have been found to store both vote tallies and audit logs in an unencrypted form that could be altered without detection and that some vendors installed uncertified versions of voting software in some machines.
These reports came from individual election officials, and there was not a definite consensus, the report said, but there were enough cases of lost votes in real elections that the GAO recommended stricter policies and rules for election machines.