#OpenSource #Voting Systems #Resolution

Adopted by the San Francisco Elections Commission (6-0) on November 18, 2015.

[Supporting Open Source Voting Systems — Encouraging the Mayor and Board
of Supervisors to Initiate a Project to Develop and Certify an Open Source Voting System]
Resolution to support the development and certification of an open source voting
system running on commercial off-the-shelf hardware; and to request that the Mayor
and Board of Supervisors initiate and fund a project to develop and certify such a
system for use in San Francisco.
WHEREAS, Free and fair elections, as a cornerstone of the democratic process,
demand the highest levels of public openness, accessibility, accuracy, security, and
WHEREAS, The public benefits from elections that, in their conduct and operation, also
have increased efficiency, innovation, and affordability;
WHEREAS, The San Francisco Elections Commission (“Elections Commission”) on
May 16, 2007 adopted a resolution that—
(a) Cited concerns raised by members of the Board of Supervisors about ratifying a
contract for voting machines which did not allow for open source software; and that
(b) Established a policy that the San Francisco Department of Elections (“Department
of Elections”) shall endeavor in contracting to prioritize and select if possible, voting
systems and vendors which provide the maximum level of security and transparency
possible consistent with the principles of public disclosure;
WHEREAS, The City and County of San Francisco (“San Francisco”) on December 11,
2007, and as amended on January 18, 2008, entered into a four-year voting system

agreement with Sequoia Voting Systems, Inc. at a cost of $13.78 million — an agreement that

the Board of Supervisors extended and that will expire on January 1, 2017;
WHEREAS, The Board of Supervisors on November 18, 2008 created a Voting
Systems Task Force to make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors about voting
system standards, design and development, including models for development of a voting
system including proprietary, disclosed and open source software and hardware approaches
and which address aforementioned voting systems requirements and assure a cost effective,
highly reliable, maintainable system;
WHEREAS, The Voting Systems Task Force in June 2011 completed its report, which
recommended in part that—
(a) The Department of Elections should give strong preference to a voting system
licensing structure that gives San Francisco all of the rights provided by a license
approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), even if the system is maintained by an
external party; and that
(b) If an open source model is used, that San Francisco work with other jurisdictions
and organizations to develop and manage the code-base in order to leverage
additional resources and expertise; and
(c) San Francisco should be an active participant in the movement toward more open
and transparent voting systems;
WHEREAS, After the November 2016 election, San Francisco will have spent $19.69
million over nine years on its current voting system agreement, including $2.86 million on
software licensing fees, $6.53 million on hardware, and $1.63 million on hardware
WHEREAS, The California legislature, in enacting SB 360 in 2013, expressed its intention that—
(a) The Secretary of State study and encourage the development of voting systems
that use nonproprietary source code and that are easy to audit;
(b) California receive the benefits of the publicly funded development of a
nonproprietary voting system in the state; and
(c) Provides for the experimental use of a voting system in a pilot program if the voting
system uses only software and firmware with disclosed source code, except for
unmodified commercial off-the-shelf software and firmware;
WHEREAS, The Board of Supervisors on December 9, 2014 unanimously passed
Resolution No. 460-14, which committed San Francisco to work with other jurisdictions and
organizations to create new voting systems using open source software, and which stated
further that—
(a) San Francisco supports the movement toward more open and transparent voting
systems and the creation of new voting systems using open source software and
inexpensive commodity components; and
(b) The Board of Supervisors requests that the Local Agency Formation Commission
conduct a study of the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of San Francisco leading an
effort to develop and use a new voting system, either whole or in part, through a
collaborative model;
WHEREAS, The Department of Elections on August 6, 2015 issued a Request for
Information (RFI) for a new voting system, expressing a preference for voting systems
designed using open source software;
WHEREAS, The Department received thirteen responses to the RFI by the August 28,
2015 deadline, all of which left significant gaps in meeting the RFI requirements with existing voting systems; and
WHEREAS, Six RFI respondents proposed predominantly open source systems,
though in the absence of funding, none have yet been fully developed or certified; and
WHEREAS, The Local Agency Formation Commission on October 23, 2015 issued its
final report, “Study on Open Source Voting Systems,” which analyzed the possibility of San
Francisco leading an effort to develop and use an open source voting system, and concluded
in part that several ongoing voting system projects can be adopted and provide an opportunity
for San Francisco to expedite the development of an open source voting system, if San
Francisco chooses to develop its own voting system;
WHEREAS, The Elections Commission on October 21, 2015 held a public hearing on
open source voting systems during which five of the six open source RFI respondents gave
presentations on the benefits of open source voting systems and on possible ways forward for
San Francisco to develop and adopt a certified open source voting system;
WHEREAS, Any open source software license approved by the Open Source Initiative
(OSI) ensures that the software can be freely viewed, used, changed, and redistributed — in
modified or unmodified form — by anyone, including people, organizations, and governmental
WHEREAS, The transparency of open source software promotes greater trust and
public confidence in its use, and in particular permits greater security and correctness through
increased public scrutiny and feedback from experts;
WHEREAS, For the purposes of this resolution, “open voting system” means a voting
system whose software is open source under OSI approved software licenses; whose
electronic hardware is commercial off-the-shelf (COTS); and whose auxiliary development
products, materials, and documents related to areas such as requirements, design, build,
installation, testing, and user documentation, and any additional materials submitted to gain
regulatory approval, are freely and openly licensed;
WHEREAS, The current voting system marketplace provides little or no incentive for
established vendors to offer an open voting system, and the initial development and
certification costs make it prohibitive for new industry entrants to do so;
WHEREAS, Since elections are a public process undergirding democracy across the
United States, access to improved voting systems should not be limited only to those
jurisdictions with greater financial means, and all jurisdictions should be free to make
improvements to those systems on their own as needed;
WHEREAS, The development and certification of an open voting system could not only
provide San Francisco with an affordable, accurate, flexible, and secure voting system, but
could benefit all election jurisdictions across the country by providing them such an option;
WHEREAS, Additionally, copyleft provisions in open source software licenses would
help ensure that everyone, including San Francisco, has free access to future changes and
improvements to that software, providing a way for San Francisco to derive additional benefit
from the creation of an open voting system; and
WHEREAS, As a leader in innovative public policy initiatives and as a hub for
innovation in software and open source — with the San Francisco Bay Area home to many
well-known organizations like Apple, Facebook, GitHub, Google, the Mozilla Foundation,
Twitter, Yahoo, and countless others contributing significantly to open source software — San
Francisco is a natural jurisdiction to take the lead in developing and certifying an open voting
system; now, therefore be it
RESOLVED, That it be the position of the Elections Commission that open voting
systems using paper ballots have the potential to provide the greatest degree of accessibility,

accuracy, transparency, security, auditability, affordability, and flexibility in elections, and so

would best serve the voters of San Francisco; and, be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Elections Commission expresses its appreciation to
the Board of Supervisors for its past resolution in support of open source voting systems
running on inexpensive commodity components, and encourages the Mayor and Board of
Supervisors to initiate and fund a project, starting in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016,
with the goal of ensuring that an open voting system be available for use by the Department
of Elections for the June 2020 Presidential Primary Election, and for partial or pilot use by the
November 2019 Municipal Election or earlier; and, be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Elections Commission encourages the Mayor and
Board of Supervisors to consider incorporating the following characteristics into such a
(a) First, hire a project director with technical expertise to be responsible for planning
and leading the project, including working with stakeholders, collaborators, and
regulators; drafting system requirements; and selecting and managing technical
contractors, as necessary;
(b) Incorporate openness and transparency into the project, for example by forming a
public committee of experts and citizens to advise the project director, and by releasing
all development products, including software source code and documentation, as they
are developed;
(c) Design and implement the voting system in a modular fashion, by developing
components like the ballot layout software, scanner device drivers, a central scanner, a
precinct scanner, an accessible voting device, tabulation software, and the election
results reporter independently and in parallel, using open data formats to communicate with one another;
(d) Express a preference for open source licenses with copyleft characteristics so that
San Francisco and other jurisdictions can benefit from future improvements that others
make to the voting system components;
(e) Build on prior open source work where possible to reduce project time and costs;
(f) Permit the selection of different organizations to develop different components of the
voting system to reduce project risk, for example by issuing separate, smaller
Requests for Proposal (RFPs) for each voting system component;
(g) Spread project costs over multiple years to reduce risk, spending funds in
subsequent years only after the results of prior expenditures are known;
(h) Produce production-ready deliverables early on and incrementally as in an agile
approach to further reduce risks and costs, rather than waiting until the conclusion of
the project to deliver finished versions of all components;
(i) Certify and use components of the voting system in real elections prior to the
completion of the full system, for example by facilitating pilot projects of the form
permitted by SB 360 and/or the use of a blended system during a transition period that
incorporates components from both a proprietary system and the open system being
(j) Work with the California Secretary of State’s Office before the completion of each
component to maximize the likelihood of state certification;
(k) Recruit other organizations, including other jurisdictions, universities, open source
software organizations, and commercial entities with an interest in open source, to
cosponsor, fund, and help manage the development, certification, and maintenance of
the voting system;
(l) Explore the possibility of innovative partnerships with public and private entities that
could let San Francisco further reduce, and even recover, project costs;
(m) Seek grants from foundations, other government agencies, and nonprofit
organizations with a similar interest in election openness to help fund and support the
project; and, be it
FINALLY RESOLVED, That it be the policy of the Department of Elections to support
and work towards the adoption of a fully open voting system, including supporting the
development, testing, and certification of such a system.

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