A New Chapter & Some Announcements

On this important day in history, and inspired by our new President’s call to action, I want to briefly update you, the real stakeholders in our democracy, on our progress.  I first want to thank all readers here — from the merely interested, to the ardent supporters of the Foundation — for your interest and passion in how we sustain one of the pillars of our democracy: the process of elections and the means by which we vote.

Today, at the start of a new chapter in our nation’s history, we have some thoughts and announcements.

Elections are the heart of our democracy. If our electoral process is to remain genuinely democratic, and if our trust in that process is to be restored, let alone fortified, then that process must embrace and sustain four imperative characteristics:

1. Accuracy
2. Verifiability
3. Privacy
4. Incoercible

I believe Fortify Software in a recent White Paper is the first to delineate these characteristics with these words (above), but the concepts they communicate are well settled, and cannot be misinterpreted.

Although the 2008 election appeared to go reasonably smoothly, and we have a new President, new administration, and the start of a new chapter of American history, there is much to do to ensure that our democratic process in general, and the systems by which we vote, are built to sustain these four principles.

In fact, it is imperative that this Nation does not ignore election systems until the Fall of 2010, let alone 2012.  Through development of new open source technology and demonstrations of results, the OSDV Foundation intends to work tirelessly to make sure voting technology is not ignored until the mid-term elections of next year.  And today, we have some announcements to support that cause.

Voting technology will continue to be a core ingredient to elections processes.  And the fact is, with regard to the aforementioned characteristics, we can and must do better.  We must increase reliability.  We must demand better testing, accountability, and audit controls.  The machinery of elections are not systems we use for daily business or entertainment, nor are these systems which we rely on to protect our health records and bank accounts.  These systems are the cornerstone of our democracy and they protect our freedom and right to vote.

There are some 100 various non-profit efforts across the country to effect some sort of election reform and we respect and salute them all.  And as a stark departure, yet new arrival, unlike the others, we are singularly focused on the transparent making of voting technology, stuff you can see, touch, and try, and holding it in the public trust.  To that extent, I have 3.5 announcements.

I say 3.5, because the fourth announcement is a leak more than announcement pending some administrivia to make it public.  So, here is our news, in support of our mission to participate in the making of this new chapter of American democracy history.

1. Availability of Real Technology Work
Today I formally announce the fruits of a wonderful partnership the Foundation has established with an enterprise software development firm, Pivotal Labs.  Pivotal is generously supporting the Foundation with, among other things, a core software engineering team.  Together with our CTO and other volunteer developers, the OSDV Foundation is proud to announce an early Beta proof-of-concept of a digital voter registration service.  Shortly we will publish into a "request for comment" cycle the full Design Specification.  For the moment, you can see, touch, and try it here.  The hallmark objective of this project was to demonstrate the power, speed, and cost savings of open source agile development.  Pivotal blogged about it this past week.  And with that, we’ve gone from ground zero to this operating demonstration in roughly 7 weeks.  And there will be much, much more to come as we ramp up development of the truly production ready version of this service.  This work complements the work already underway and available on our voting systems platform.

2. The Launch of the Ballot Design Studio
Our 2nd announcement regards the start of another imperative component of the ballot ecosystem, and that is an AIGA compliant Ballot Design Studio.  The virtual ground breaks today with the start of design specifications drafting and a planned cooperative effort with the American Institute of Graphic Artists.  We will have much more to say about this in the coming weeks.  Fund raising has begun, and like all major projects, we’re in discussions with large grantor organizations and technology philanthropists to close the funding round for this project in short order.  But we’re not bashful in reminding everyone that whereas major donors support directed project giving, our operating overhead to manage these projects is only covered by your kind donations.  So, your help is appreciated!

3. The Rise of the TrustTheVote Project
And today, I want to share the official name for our efforts in developing new technology, a name that’s been lurking here within circles of supporters and development team members closely familiar with our efforts.  Our umbrella program is to be known as the "TrustTheVote Project."  In the coming weeks you will see new web sites to continue the building of our supporter and developer communities, and to support a vastly increased public presence to ramp our movement, "I count!"  This movement is to gather the support of all citizens in the cause to restore trust in voting technology and how America votes.  Please stay tuned for all kinds of information of how you can now actively become involved with what has been, so far, an intentionally "below the radar" tech-geek effort.  And all this is possible due in part to my final "1/2" announcement.

3.5 Significant Backing to Grow & Sustain the TrustTheVote Project

I am very pleased to (partially) announce that the OSDV Foundation is receiving tremendous financial backing and ardent support from one of the best nationally renown technology philanthropists.  This individual and their Foundation have much to say about American democracy, the rising digital democracy, and the means by which we leverage and rely on technology to cast our votes and conduct our elections.  This individual is truly a thought leader and we look forward to their advice, support, and voice.  Their support is primarily directed giving, intended to further development of our voting machinery and systems projects.  Given some back-office business processes we’re not quite ready to announce the identity of the individual and their Foundation, but please bear with us.  We felt it is important enough to let you know now that its essentially a done deal as part of our progress announcement.  This forum will, of course, along with a forthcoming News & Press section of the web community, be the first to carry the full details when they are announced.  We hope that official highly public announcement will be in early February, a few weeks from now.

Combine all of this with two recent important and enlightening weeks of activities in Washington D.C., first to be a part of the Pew Center Make Voting Work Election 2008 in Review conference in December, and last week at the Congressional Internet Caucus State of the Internet Summit, where we demonstrated the digital voter registration service (which is, of course, web-based).  And in combination, we’re galvanized in our belief that this is an imperative public digital works project.  Stay tuned here, on Twitter, Squidoo, and Facebook.

Best Regards
Co-Executive Director
Chief Development Officer

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