Company releases code for e-voting security component

Company releases code for e-voting security component

A software company has released source code for a module that provides security for electronic-voting machines.

'We knew there would be intense pressure to disclose,' said Jim Adler, founder of VoteHere Inc. The Bellevue, Wash., company announced the availability today.

The company made the reference source code implementation for VoteHere Technology inside, or VHTi, available online. The move is intended to boost the reliability of e-voting as governments search for alternatives to flawed paper ballot processes.

E-voting machines have been plagued by questions of hardware and software reliability, security and audit capability. Adler called VHTi a barking dog. It does not protect the voting system but makes clear if it has been compromised.

'It also provides a way to do a meaningful audit of the process,' he said, by providing a paper receipt with a ballot sequence number unique to each vote cast. 'You know that number stands for Bush,' for example, 'but nobody else does.'

The system lets voting results be published online, so voters can check to see that their ballot sequence numbers were included in the count.

VoteHere was founded in 1996 and has provided technology for Internet and other remote network voting overseas. 'But in the United States we have focused on electronic voting,' Adler said. The application uses standalone machines at polling places to record votes and does not depend on network access.

VoteHere so far has announced a nonexclusive agreement licensing VHTi to Sequoia Voting Systems Inc. of Oakland, Calif. 'We're talking with all of the electronic-voting companies,' Adler said.

The company has patented VHTi so it can be released for public review rather than maintaining it as a trade secret, Adler said. 'We knew elections were going to require a level of transparency and openness.'

Aviel D. Rubin of Johns Hopkins University's Information Security Institute, who has been a vocal critic of Internet voting plans and has urged caution in the adoption of e-voting technology, praised the release of the code and said he hoped more vendors would follow suit.

'VoteHere is showing that they are serious about the importance of public scrutiny of voting systems,' Rubin said. 'Hopefully this release will put pressure on the direct-recording electronic-voting manufacturers to do the same.'

Rubin was an unpaid member of VoteHere's technical advisory board for about two years, but severed connections with the company following the publication last July of a report critical of an e-voting platform.

The VoteHere code made available for review includes:

  • An application programming interface document, a reference implementation of the protocols

  • Instructions on how to build the source

  • Samples of VHTi use

  • Documentation of already known issues.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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