California Still Willing to Give e-Voting a Try

SAN FRANCISCO – The state of California gave electronic voting a chance, but when things started happening like polling station workers taking home the equipment (and in one case, it was stolen), state officials had to draw the line.

Still, California’s Secretary of State Debra Bowen talked up the potential of electronic voting in a speech here at the Opensource World/Next-Generation Data Center/CloudWorld conference Wednesday. Bowen spoke on the use of open source software in developing electronic voting systems and having to shut down the state’s system because it proved too easy to compromise.

Many e-voting machines were being taken home by election workers. One had their car stolen in 1995, and the machine with it. Neither was ever recovered. She justifiably had a problem with this.

E-voting has the inherent difficulty of the secrecy of votes.

“In all transactions, you have a counter party and a way to verify the transaction. With voting there is no counter party, your vote is secret, so you don’t know if it was counted or not. It’s different from a PayPal account because there is no means of auditing it,” said Bowen.

Paper ballots right now, she said, mean “never having to say ‘I trust you’ to thousands of lines of code no matter how cute they may be,” she added.

California’s rural Humboldt County used an open source system for e-voting, but ran into its own problems. For starters, the audit logs failed to record a chunk of votes, and when checked, election officials discovered the logs could be altered and no trace of alteration was left behind, which pretty much killed the integrity of the logs.

Bowen said she remains a believer in open source technology in electronic voting because it’s something everyone can inspect and look for errors and problems, but it is a ways off before it can be used.

Dell says cloud computing offers business model flexibility

Bowen had a much better turnout than the first keynote speaker, Judy O’Brien Chavis, director for business development and global alliances at Dell (NASDAQ: DELL). O’Brien Chavis was brought in at the last minute after the original speaker was hospitalized for illness.

The crowd gathered to see her numbered less than 200. Her speech was largely familiar territory; that the cloud is all about business flexibility and that there needs to be flexibility in supporting the different security, archival and regulatory needs of different companies.

“The cloud is about business model flexibility. We’re not saying that everything needs to be in the cloud, but this is going to be the new approach for delivering IT as an infrastructure service,” O’Brien Chavis said.

The show floor was pretty sparse. Despite being about cloud computing, Microsoft, Salesforce and Amazon, three major players in the space, were all absent. IBM, HP and CA were the biggest names present. Overall, the crowd looked to be between 1,500 and 2,000 people.

“I thought JavaOne was kind of sparse in attendance but that was a Beatles reunion concert compared to this,” joked Clay Ryder, principal analyst for The Sageza Group.

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