[clug] Australian e-voting

Steven Farlie steven.farlie at anu.edu.au
Tue Nov 4 22:43:02 EST 2003

On Tue, 2003-11-04 at 02:03, Nemo -earth native- wrote:
> Personally, I'm curious... is there any reason eVacs isn't in debian (or
> indeed, any distro)?  It's gpl and hte production machines ran on debian
> based systems already... admittedly I doubt hte package would be needed
> by many people, but it could at least raise awareness that it exists at
> all. 
> (meaningless coincidence of the week - I posted almost the same point to
> slashdot myself a few days ago, but before the wired story... oh well.
> *heh*)
> .../Nemo

Well don't consider me an authoritative source, I'm just a 4th year
software undergraduate at the ANU. We have been using evacs ("electronic
voting and counting system" for those who don't know) as a case study
for the past few years.

There are probably a number of reasons why it isn't in debian:

1. Evacs isn't something that you can apt-get install and then just type
'evacs' and everything is running. It requires a custom setup so you
would have to install bar code readers, zip disks and all that. You
still have to print out all of the barcodes yourself and stick them onto
cards. When you consider the amount of setup work required then it
doesn't matter whether it is distributed as source or in the debian
repository, it's going to take a long time to set up either way.

That's if you consider evacs to be just a piece of software. I would
think of it more as a system. Consider it an election process which has
well defined roles and procedures and just happens to use software. So
whatever you put into debian will be inadequate without documentation
(which admittedly can be put in debian) and training (which can't).

2. Putting it in debian means someone at Software Improvements has to go
through the code, package it all up and write the documentation. After
that someone has to maintain the system, apply patches and rerelease.
That means time and money, and the company wouldn't get anything in
return. It would make a lot more sense to use those resources on an
existing project.

3. Software Improvements probably doesn't want the legal liability or
even the thought that they may have any sort of liability. There have
been good open source projects which have shut down because the risk of
being sued is too high. GPL doesn't stop you from getting sued.

That said, they probably could put it out there if they really want to
become a company which specialises in e-voting. The system is pretty
good and in my e-voting studies I haven't come across any similar system
in Australia. Maybe they can fork off a small startup and see where it
goes. Get some young lads in who aren't afraid to travel, as well as
someone with some political know-how to prevent pollies from FUDding it.

Steven Farlie

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