Introducing VotingWorks, Improving Voting Systems through Public Work

Written by Joseph Lorenzo Hall

The Center for Democracy & Technology and VotingWorks are excited to announce the launch of VotingWorks. In case you missed the announcement on Election Day and subsequent tech press coverage, VotingWorks aims to shake up the voting equipment market by creating a new non-profit voting systems manufacturer with the mission of being the public works for voting systems. VotingWorks will do this by developing voting equipment that 1) embody the state-of-the-art in usability, security, design, and development; 2) are affordable to maximize any benefit to all sizes of election jurisdictions; 3) allow speedy, efficient voting processes; and, 4) that is extensible to the needs of all types of localities. And all of this will be developed in the open for the public good.

The need here is very real. Election officials often find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place when choosing a new voting system; there are often few expensive choices that come with serious limitations in how these systems can be used, modified, improved, and studied. CDT has advised localities in procurement decisions in the past and contributed to efforts where jurisdictions are designing their own voting systems – such as the Los Angeles County VSAP project – and the common factor in all these cases is the wide variety of needs and requirements that elections present, and how few systems can meet them all.

CDT will serve as a home for VotingWorks until it becomes its own non-profit entity. This partnership means VotingWorks is working closely with the CDT’s experienced team to rapidly ramp up operations and begin in earnest the development of affordable, secure, open-source voting machines for use in US public elections.

CDT and VotingWorks are ideal partners: CDT has been instrumental to many critical technology policy debates for almost 25 years. We’ve elevated the discussion around privacy and personal data control, security and surveillance, free speech online, and, of course election security. CDT has specifically been a tireless advocate for strengthening election security, through efforts such as helping election officials across the country train their staff to defend against new threats. CDT and VotingWorks also share an important conviction: that the foundation of election security is the widespread use of paper ballots and risk-limiting audits.

Ben Adida, VotingWorks founder, is a brilliant applied security thinker, cryptographer, voting security expert, and has experience building and developing products that are easy and intuitive to use without sacrificing security or privacy. Ben is also a champion of open source and other generous licensing regimes – such as Creative Commons, where he’s a member of the Board of Directors. It’s this open approach that we all hope might translate into a common secure technology base for election operations, similar to how the open source Linux operating system now powers much of the computing infrastructure around us. We’re humbled and proud to be working together.

Furthering this collaboration, I will be joining VotingWorks’ board of advisors. Ben and I have been looking for an opportunity to work more closely together for 15 years, and we are excited to have the opportunity of a lifetime to work on a topic near and dear to both our hearts.

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