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Updated: 6 hours 45 min ago

San Francisco Open Source Voting System Project Continues On

Thu, 2017-03-23 15:13

This update on San Francisco's project to develop and certify the country's first open source voting system was submitted by OSI Individual Member Chris Jerdonek. While Chris is a member (and President) of the San Francisco Elections Commission, he is providing this update as an individual and not in his official capacity as a Commissioner. Chirs' e-mail is, and a website with that domain is expected soon.

Some "Action Items"

Below are some things you can do to help the effort:

  • Show support by following @SFOpenVoting on Twitter:
  • Retweet the following tweet about a recent front-page news story to help spread the word:
  • Reply to Chris with the words "keep me posted" if you'd like me to notify you sooner if something interesting happens related to the project (e.g. an RFP or job posting getting posted, an important Commission meeting coming up, the publishing of a news piece about SF open source voting, etc).
  • Reply to Chris with the words "might want to help" if you might like to help organize or be part of a core group of activists to help build more support and otherwise help the project succeed. This would likely start off with a small organizing meeting.
  • Show your support and come watch the next Elections Commission meeting on Wed, April 19 at 6pm in Room 408 of San Francisco City Hall:
San Francisco Examiner Article

At the February 15 Elections Commission meeting, the Elections Commission voted unanimously to ask the Mayor's Office to allocate $4 million towards initial development of the open source voting project for the 2018-19 fiscal year (from Aug. 2018 - July 2019). This would go towards initial development once the planning phase is complete.

The San Francisco Examiner wrote a good article about this development here (with the headline appearing on the front page):

Latest Project Updates

The open source voting project is starting to gain some definition. For the latest, read the March 2017 Director's Report in the agenda packet of last week's March 15 Elections Commission meeting:

A few highlights from the report:

  • Very soon (perhaps within the next few days), the Department will be posting a job opening for a senior staff position to assist with the project.
  • In addition, by the end of March or so, the Department will be issuing an RFP for an outside contractor to help plan and create a "business case" for the project.
  • Software for the project will be released under version 3 of the GNU General Public License where possible. (GPL-3.0 is a copyleft license, which means that future changes would also be assured open source.)
  • The software is projected to be released to the public as it is written, which would be great for increased public visibility and transparency.
Citizen's Advisory Committee

Also at last week's Elections Commission meeting, the Commission started discussing the idea of forming a Citizen's Advisory Committee to help guide the open source voting project. This is an idea that was raised at the February meeting, as well as previously.

At the meeting, it was suggested that the committee help advise primarily on technical matters -- things like agile procurement approaches, project management, open source issues, and engineering / architecture issues.

The Commission will be taking this up again at its April meeting on April 19 (and possibly voting on it).

If you might be interested in serving on the committee, you are encouraged to listen to the discussion from last week's meeting to get an idea of what it might be like (starting at 11 mins, 18 sec):

(And if you know someone who might be good to serve on such a committee, please forward them this info!)

FairVote California house party (recap)

In early March, Chris spoke about San Francisco's open source voting project at a house party organized by FairVote California. Thank you to FairVote California for having me!

If anyone would like me to speak to a group of people about the project, just shoot me an e-mail. It would only require 5 minutes or so of a group's time.

GET Summit (upcoming: May 17-18)

On May 17-18 in San Francisco, there will be a conference on open source and election technology issues called the GET Summit:

The conference is being organized by Startup Policy Lab (SPL) and has an amazing line-up of many speakers, including people like California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and former Federal Elections Commissioner (FEC) Ann Ravel. In September 2016, Alex Padilla said on television that "open source [voting] is the ultimate in transparency and accountability for all." And Ann Ravel made headlines last month with her very public resignation from the FEC. See the conference website for the latest speaker list.

So that's all folks! Please follow @SFOpenVoting on Twitter if you haven't yet, and thank you for all your continued interest and support!

We thank Chris Jerdonek for his work in raising awareness of San Francisco's efforts to develop an open source voting system and sharing these updates with us here at the OSI and the larger open source software community.

Categories: FLOSS Research

CAVO Continues to Advance Open Source for Democracy

Mon, 2017-02-27 21:37

OSI Affiliate Member, the California Association of Voting Officials (CAVO), has shared some exciting news regarding their advocacy work in San Francisco: according to the San Francisco Examiner, the city of San Francisco is pushing forward with plans to develop their open source election system. In addition, the paper is reporting that the San Francisco Elections Commission voted unanimously on Feb 17th to request $4 million to fund the initial stages of the open source voting system.

For many years board members of CAVO have been urging San Francisco to expedite, "the creation and deployment of a GPL v3 open source / paper ballot printing system that would set the standard for voting systems nationally." According to CAVO, currently only New Hampshire has deployed a voting system using open source software, Prime III.

"We have been speaking with many members of the intelligence community regarding the immediate necessity of securing the election systems" states CAVO communications lead Brent Turner. "We feel we are finally breaking through the proprietary software lobbyist's block that has delayed political will."

CAVO reports San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the Elections Commission, and community groups have directed the San Francisco Department of Elections to expedite the new open source system.

For more information regarding open source election systems - see

CAVO Welcomes New Board Member

And in more open source elections news, Dr. Jean Camp has joined the California Association of Voting Officials and National Association of Voting Officials in their efforts to provide the election administration community with appropriately secure voting systems and election administration education.

Commenting on her appointment, Dr. Camp stated, "I am proud to serve on the California and national board. The work of this association is crucial to the integrity of our democracy."

CAVO / NAVO has been the focus of national attention in questioning the validity of election results tendered by vendor sold "secret software" systems while advocating the benefits of publicly owned /open source voting systems." Professor Camp is a great addition to our board," said NAVO Secretary Brent Turner. "We look forward to her input."

Jean Camp is a Professor at the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University (like CAVO, IU is also an OSI Affiliate Member). She joined Indiana after eight years at Harvard’s Kennedy School where her courses were also listed in Harvard Law, Harvard Business, and the Engineering Systems Division of MIT. She spent the year after earning her doctorate from Carnegie Mellon as a Senior Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories. She began her career as an engineer at Catawba Nuclear Station and with a MSEE at University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research focuses on the intersection of human and technical trust, levering economic models and human-centered design to create safe, secure systems. She is the author of two monographs. In addition, she has authored more than one hundred fifty publications.

Jean Camp joins other CAVO board member notables Dr. Juan Gilbert and Brian Fox to be part of the pioneering team.

Categories: FLOSS Research

2017 Membership Drive: JOIN TODAY

Fri, 2017-02-03 00:56

February, 3rd, 2017 marks the 19th anniversary of the OSI: Please join today

The OSI will launch our third annual Individual Membership Drive, coinciding with our 19th anniversary, Feb 3rd, 2017 and running through March 14th, 2017. Our membership drive goal is to sign up 2,398 members in celebration of our founding on 2/3/98 — "2,398 for 2/3/98" — see what we did there? :-) The membership drive will also run in parallel with our annual Board elections, with nominations opening on Feb 1st.

Please join as a new member today!

The Open Source Initiative® (OSI)
  • California 501(c)3 non-profit, raising awareness and adoption of open source software (OSS) through advocacy, education and building bridges between communities.
  • The pragmatic community organization that understands how developers, businesses, governments, and open source interact.
  • Steward of the Open Source Definition, globally recognized body for approving OSS licenses.
  • Protects and promotes open source software, development and communities.
  • Champions software freedom in society through education, collaboration, and infrastructure.
  • Prevents abuse of the ideals and ethos inherent to the open source movement.
  • See our about and history pages for more information.
Individual Membership

Membership provides several benefits to individuals, the OSI, and open source software. Only OSI Individual Members can vote for OSI Board Directors: they can even run for Director seats themselves. Individual Members are invited to join or create OSI sponsored Working Groups and Incubator Projects in various areas of open source advocacy and adoption. Individual Members are eligible for grants to attend conferences and meetings related to open source software on behalf of the OSI.

You can find out more about the benefits of becoming a Member of the Open Source Initiative and how to join, at:

If we reach our goal of 2,398 new members, we’ll not only raise $95,920 to help us with our operations and community-based initiatives, we’ll also build an even stronger constituency to support our efforts to raise awareness about and adoption of not only the projects of our Affiliate members, but open source software, communities and development internationally.

Please support open source by joining today

Spreading the word

Please help spread the word about the OSI Individual Membership campaign, by posting about it, and encouraging your friends to join. Use the #for2398 hashtag when Tweeting.

Read more about the OSI 2014 Operational & Organizational Highlights, Community Engagement, Mission & Mandate, Sponsorship Opportunities, and how we use our funds, in our recently released Open Source Initiative 2015 Annual Report.

Categories: FLOSS Research

Update on San Francisco's Open Source Voting System!

Thu, 2017-02-02 15:41

As many may know, the OSI has been involved in supporting the adoption of an open source elections system in San Francisco, California. The following is an update from Chris Jerdonek, Elections Commissioner & President of the San Francisco Elections Commission.

We'd like to thank Chris for all of his hard work in raising awareness of open source software and its value for elections as well as keeping all of us up to date on the latest developments. If you'd like to learn more about the project, please contact Chris directly.

Hello open source voting followers and fans!

This is the first 2017 update on San Francisco's project to develop and certify the country's first open source voting system! The last update from me was in early October.

Also, welcome to those who signed up in support of open source voting at last Wednesday's Reboot Democracy event in SoMa. After that event, the mailing list grew to nearly 200 recipients (almost all local to SF).

Since it has been several months since the last update, this will be a long post--you don't need to read it in one sitting. :)

(Also, a disclaimer: while I serve as a member of the San Francisco Elections Commission, I'm writing this update as an individual and not in my official capacity as a Commissioner.)

Main Action Item: Before getting into the nitty-gritty "newsletter" portion of my e-mail, please spread the word about the Department of Elections's upcoming open source voting RFP!

Within the next two or three months, the SF Department of Elections will be issuing an RFP for someone to lead the planning phase of the City's open source voting system project. The planning phase will need to be finished by January 2018 (i.e. a year from now, in time for next year's budget process). The City has allocated $300,000 towards this phase.

If you know anyone who might be interested in applying, please start spreading the word.

This project will be a great opportunity to have a meaningful impact on the world and to play a leadership role in something truly historic involving both technology and democracy. In my opinion, the ideal applicant is someone with a strong commitment to and background in open source (e.g. comes from the open source community) and has broad skills including both technical expertise as well as experience in project management. The person will need to work with stakeholders both inside and outside government -- and set the project up to succeed both technically and organizationally.

My understanding is that the role will be fillable by either a single person or a group of people, but applicants will need to comply with SF procurement rules, etc (so it would be good to start becoming familiar with those).

Now on to the newsletter...

SF Open Source Voting - February 2017 Update / Newsletter

  1. San Francisco RFP update
  2. Local Media / News coverage
  3. Reboot Democracy event
  4. SF Voting System Extension
  5. Commission Annual Report
  6. Future Commission Meetings

San Francisco RFP update

At last month's San Francisco Elections Commission meeting on Jan. 18, Director of Elections John Arntz gave the Commission his first written status update on the open source voting project. You can read that update at the following link (by clicking "Director's Report" and reading section A):

Among other things, Director Arntz said that the RFP for the planning phase of the project "is expected to be issued within the next two to three months."

At the January meeting, after initial remarks by the Director, several Commissioners and members of the public (including myself) communicated strongly to the Director that the purpose of the planning phase should be to complete the groundwork needed to begin the actual development of the system. For those interested in hearing the full discussion, you can listen to the audio of the agenda item on YouTube here (the hyperlink points directly to the beginning of the agenda item -- agenda item #6, Director's Report, and related discussion bleeds into the following agenda item, item #7).

It's true that things seem off to a slow start (certainly slower than I had hoped). But the November election was a very busy time for the Department -- both leading up to Election Day and afterwards with the completion of the canvass. And this election was especially busy in San Francisco with a voter turnout of 80.7% in SF (as a percentage of registered voters).

The good news is that no elections are scheduled for 2017 in San Francisco, which means that the Director should have a lot more time this year to devote to open source voting. And the sooner the Director issues and awards the RFP, the sooner there will be a resource dedicated solely to working on this issue.

Local Media / News coverage

There has been some great media coverage of open source voting in San Francisco in the past few months. Here are a few examples:

Reboot Democracy event

Last Wednesday, Jan. 25, I was invited to speak about the SF open source voting effort at an inspiring, well-attended civic tech event in SoMa called "Reboot Democracy Reunion."

About 120 people attended, and more than 50 people signed up in support of the project after speaking. If you know any other events or people I should speak to, feel free to get in touch.

SF Voting System Extension

Starting on Oct. 17, 2016 and ending with the Mayor's signature on Jan. 20, 2017, the Mayor and Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance authorizing the Department of Elections to extend its current voting system contract with Dominion Voting Systems by two years.

The contract previously expired on Dec. 10, 2016. With the extension, it will expire on Dec. 31, 2018. This was necessary because the City has to have some voting system in place. The 2-year extension will be at a cost not to exceed ~$2.3 million. This will increase the cost of using the system over its nearly 10-year lifetime from $19.7 million to ~$22 million.

The per-election costs in the ordinance are 33% higher as compared with previous years, and the annual fees increased by 25%. These increases occurred despite the fact that the system is the same system that San Francisco first got 9 years ago in 2008, and despite the fact that the system might not be used in 2017 (because of no scheduled elections).

This latest voting system extension provides one more example of why developing an open source voting system would be beneficial to the City and other jurisdictions across the country. San Francisco had little choice here because of vendor lock-in and the proprietary nature of the system: jurisdictions have very little negotiating power when "locked in." With open source, the City would have much more freedom to choose a service provider because the system wouldn't be controlled by any one entity.

You can find more information about the voting system extension here (e.g. the legislative history, analyses, etc):

One amendment the Supervisors added to the ordinance is that the Director of Elections needs to provide a written update and presentation to the Board of Supervisors during the FY 2017-18 and FY 2018-19 budget processes (i.e. sometime this spring and again next spring) on the status of implementing the open source voting system. This amendment is a good thing because it shows that the Board wants to see progress, and because it provides an opportunity for more publicity and transparency around the project (even more than in monthly Elections Commission meetings).

Elections Commission Annual Report

For those who would like to know more about the history of events in SF government around open source voting (especially those new to the issue), the Elections Commission's 2015 Annual Report (which I drafted and that the Commission passed) contains a lot of this information. It can be found at the top of this page:

Future Commission Meetings

Finally, at the Elections Commission's last meeting on Jan. 18, several Commissioners expressed interested in having a "standing" agenda item on open source voting (i.e. an open source voting agenda item at every meeting). This would let the Commission discuss and take action on open source voting at any of its regular meetings, if necessary. The Commission meets every third Wednesday of the month at 6pm in Room 408 of SF City Hall.

The Commission's Budget and Oversight of Public Elections Committee (BOPEC) also has open source voting on the agenda of its meeting later today. BOPEC meets the first Wednesday of every month at 6pm in Room 421 of City Hall (though their meetings are sometimes canceled since the meeting isn't always necessary).

It would be great for members of the public to come by and give public comment in support of open source voting at any of these meetings (and especially the full Commission meetings when more Commissioners are present).

Thanks for reading and for your continued interest and support!


Categories: FLOSS Research

OSI Board of Directors Call for Nominations

Wed, 2017-02-01 12:13

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is pleased to announce our 2017 election and seeks your nominations for candidates to serve on the OSI Board of Directors. This year, 2017, three (3) Individual Members seats are open, and one (1) Affiliate Member seat.

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is managed by a member-elected Board of Directors that is the ultimate authority responsible for the organization as a California public benefit corporation, with 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. The Board's responsibilities include oversight of the organization, including its operations, staff and budget; setting strategic direction and defining goals in line with the mission, and; serving the community through committees and working groups. The eleven person Board is composed of Directors elected by OSI Individual Members (5) and Affiliate Members (5). The General Manager of the OSI also serves on the Board as a Director (ex officio). The results of elections for both Individual and Affiliate Member Board seats are advisory with the OSI Board making the formal appointments to open seats based on the community's votes. Further details can be found at:

Call for nominations and important dates.

  • January 1, 2017: Election announcements for individual and affiliate seats
  • February 1, 2017: Nominations open
  • February 15, 2017: Nominations close (Candidates' platform is required upon nomination)
  • February 15 - 28, 2017: Meet the candidates
  • March 1, 2017: Voting opens
  • March 14, 2017 (midnight PST): Voting closes
  • March 15 - 21, 2017: Run-off elections (if needed)
  • March 29, 2017: Board ratifies vote
  • April 1, 2017: Elected members take seats

The 2017 elections will elect Board of Directors for three (3) Individual Member seats and one (1) Affiliate Member seat. No Board Director who has served for six consecutive years is eligible for re-election until a year has elapsed.


The representation of the board is as follows:

  • Five Directors of the Board are appointed based on the voting of Individual Members (2 year term, maximum 3 consecutive terms)
  • Five Directors of the Board are appointed based on the voting of Affiliate Members' votes (3 year term, maximum 2 consecutive terms)
  • One Director of the Board will be dedicated to the General Manager, ex officio (term to last length of employment)


Only current OSI Individual Members may run for an Individual Member seat on the Board (learn more about joining the OSI as an Individual Member:, however those running for an Affiliate seat on the Board need not be an Individual Member. Those interested in running for an Individual Member seat do not need to be nominated and may run by simply completing the candidate information. Those interested in running for an Affiliate Member Board seat must be nominated by a current OSI Affiliate organization.

Standing for election is extremely easy. Current Individual Members who would like to run for an Individual Member seat can simply send a contact request, selecting the category “Candidate Nomination” via the OSI contact form (

Current Affiliate Members may send their nominations for Affiliate Member seats to the OSI via the OSI contact form ( Please select the “Candidate Nomination” category on the form. Once we receive your request, we will promptly send you back information to create your election profile. Current election eligibility policy can be found here in the OSI Bylaws, Article V, Sections 3 – 5 (


Voting in OSI elections is open to all Individual Members and the OSI Representative of each Affiliate Member. Only Individual Members may vote in the election of Individual Member seats. Only Affiliate Member Representatives may vote in the election of Affiliate Member seats. Only one vote per Affiliate Member, as submitted by the Affiliate Representative will be counted in the election of an Affiliate seat. Elections for OSI Directors are held according to Approval Voting. Approval voting is a single-winner voting method used for elections. Each voter may "approve" of (i.e., select) any number of candidates. The winner is the most-approved candidate (see Wikipedia for more information on Approval Voting:

Voting for all elections is done online using Helios Voting ( When elections are held, OSI current and lifelong Individual Members and the Affiliate Members' Representative receive email notifications with instructions on how to access the online voting systems, instructions on how to complete their vote, and a list of the candidates with further information about them and their interests/qualifications.

Categories: FLOSS Research

Thank you, ...we’re not there yet.

Mon, 2016-12-26 17:23

“Not there yet...” that phrase actually highlights where we are with several important initiatives here at the OSI and even with open source software broadly.

First, and most pressing for us today, we’re not there yet in our fund raising goals for 2016, and we’re asking those working with open source software—those who not only understand the technical merits, but value open principles—to contribute and help fund our ongoing work.

“Not there yet,” also applies to the status of software freedom. While we now hear “every company is a software company,” and “open source is eating the software world” from a practical standpoint, we still have a lot of work in front of us to increase the adoption of open source software in industries beyond the technology sector: in local and national governments, in primary and secondary educational institutions, and even with individual developers and users who have yet to discover the benefits of open source software. But from a broader perspective, the increasing interest in open source software is raising new issues that challenge the ideals and values of software freedom that we in the open source software movement have worked so hard to develop and share: collaboration, authenticity, transparency, and even the criteria that define open source software licenses.

What will get us there...

The OSI has several initiatives underway (and several others proposed) that we know you’ll find inspiring, think are important to the open source movement, and worthy of your contribution. Your donations will...

Assist those new to open source attend and speak at community events: We need to raise $5,000 to launch the OSI’s Diversity Speakers Travel Fund which will help those who have not been able to participate in conferences, community events, meet-ups, etc. due to cost. That new project’s inspiring founder, the creative and collaborative developer, or a local innovator all deserve an international audience—especially if they’re part of an underrepresented community—and with our help, we can promote their good work to enhance the broader open source movement.

Introduce open source software to primary/elementary students: Our FLOSS Desktops for Kids is growing with interest from New York State Public Schools, Siena College, California Boys and Girls Clubs, and several other children’s organizations. We’re looking for $10,000 to support staff, help train teachers and volunteers, and prepare and deliver the FLOSS program. The initiative introduces children to open source software through hands-on activities, refurbishing decommissioned laptops and desktops, and we need your help.

Reduce barriers in organizing new open source projects: Responding to a call from the open source community after several projects were denied non-profit status, the OSI is working to understand how the IRS position toward FLOSS organizations has changed, how these changes affect new and existing FLOSS nonprofits, and what alternatives to independent tax-exempt status are available to new projects. Along with Software Freedom Conservancy and Mozilla, we’re hoping to raise $2,500 to help open source projects organize and operate while improving government’s understanding of open source software and communities.

Expose those who abuse the open source label and community: Each year we discover more and more disingenuous organizations that promise open source software, yet do not release their work under an OSI approved open source license, risking our software freedom, or, promise the ideals of open source software but in fact only use the label to promote their proprietary interests. We want to raise $2,500 to develop a system to verify claims of open source licensing made through crowd-funding efforts.

No, we’re not there yet, but we hope you will help us get there. Please make your tax-deductible donation today and help promote and protect open source software.

Categories: FLOSS Research

'Tis The Season...

Thu, 2016-12-15 13:14

This year you're probably inundated with requests for financial support from a variety of very worthy causes, including many from open source software projects, and other organizations working to promote software freedom. Indeed we here at the OSI are running our own end-of-the-year fund raiser, and we hope you will contribute.

However we also want to make you aware of the many other opportunities to support open source software projects and the communities that support them, specifically among our Affiliate Members. We're all working toward the same goals, and we hope you will be as generous as possible in recognition of the many people, and all the time they commit to bring you the high quality software that powers your computers, devices, businesses, governments, schools, and communities.

Please find below a few quick links to all of the OSI Affiliate Members' donations pages. As an OSI Affiliate, we've ensured each is a non-profit organization and, depending on your location, your contribution may be tax-deductible: "Many donations make all bugs shallow".

Thank you for your support or the Open Source Initiative and the open source software.

If you're an OSI Affiliate Member, and not listed here, let us know

Happy Holidays,
The OSI Board of Directors

Categories: FLOSS Research