The following is a video from Video the Vote. From the Video the Vote website.
"Video the Vote is a national initiative to protect voting rights by monitoring the electoral process. We organize citizen journalists--ordinary folks like you and me--to document election problems as they occur. And then we distribute their footage to the mainstream media and online to make sure the full story of Election Day gets told."
Here's a video they published documenting some of the "vote switching" problems which have been reported in West Virginia:
This is a video of Jeff Waybright, Jackson County Clerk in Jackson Country, West Virginia. A state that is very close this year and although it only has a tiny number of electoral votes it could be a deciding race in a close election. In this video, you'll see Jeff demonstrate a machine out of calibration switch a vote for a Democratic candidate to a vote for a write-in candidate. Jeff will then "calibrate" the machine, and continue to have issues with calibration.
The machine should stop working if it isn't calibrated. There should be no possibility that a person can press one candidate and have the vote switch to another. If the possibility exists that the machine could register a wrong vote, it shouldn't be registering a vote at all. It doesn't have to be this way. Voting technology should be open source, both the hardware and the software should be transparent and certified by public interest groups.
If Voting Machinery were Open Source
If voting machines were open source, we could validate that the source had not been patched. We could have a nonpartisan group of software developers certify a build of the voting machine software in a distributed and completely transparent way, and we could distribute certified, signed binaries to voting machines throughout the country.
If voting machines were open source, we could publish an anonymous, verifiable paper trail online which would allow voters to make sure that their single vote was recorded days and weeks after the fact. More importantly we could have a transparent, easily verifiable online audit of who touched a particular machine's software, when, and what version was installed.
If voting machines were open source, we could legally publish the results of a third-party software and hardware audit. You could walk up to the voting machine knowing what happens to your vote. Does it get stored in memory? Does it get stored in a database? If so what database? What version? What happens if there is a blackout?
If voting machines were open source, we could look forward to a series of technical articles by programmers like Brian Behlendorf, Adrian Holovaty, and Greg Stein all certifying various parts of the code. "This year Sunlight paid me to verify that the vote recording mechanism was sound, here is my analysis...." You wouldn't have to take them on faith alone, you could verify the code yourself.
If voting machines were open source, there would have been a long discussion on the developer list last year about making the touchscreen completely fail-safe with no ability to record false votes.
If voting machines were open source, you could watch the same video, find out what software version was installed in Jackson County, WV and run some unit tests against the same binary.
If voting machines were open source, each election cycle would yield improvements in the form of bug reports from poll workers.
Instead, we have series of proprietary solutions with almost no transparency being installed and maintained by a collection of consultants and vendors who answer to election officials who probably couldn't tell you the difference between a SIMM and a CPU.
I couldn't tell you if that Sequoia machine that I use in Illinois has been patched or modified by a third-party prior to use. I couldn't tell you if the machine was calibrated or not, and I'm also certain that the scrolling paper trail is difficult to read and likely useless. Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of software engineering will tell you that a checkbox on a screen and printout is still not a guarantee. I have no idea what happens to my vote data after I leave a polling place. How is it transmitted? Where is it stored?
Demand It for 2010
Maybe, just maybe, we'll have an administration that understands the power of open source. Technical voters need to band together to convince our representatives that open source voting technology is an imperative. Forget the "industry" that has developed around voting machines, this technology belongs to the people.