Additional Reporting by Brad Friedman
The voting activist and election reform advocacy community was excited yesterday upon release of news about the signing of a new bill in Wisconsin, AB267, that originally included wording that would allow munipalities to "provide to any person, upon request, at the expense of the municipality, the coding for the software that the municipality uses to operate the system and to tally the votes cast". Indeed, The BRAD BLOG received many email reports last night about the "good news" concerning this bill.
The bill, as understood and reported by many, would have been the first time that voting activists would have been afforded the opportunity to actually "look under the hood" of voting machines by examining the source code used in the software in order to see what was really being done on the equipment supplied by Voting Machine Companies. So far, those companies have managed keep such source code secret and proprietary and away from the 'prying eyes' of the pesky public who has been forced --- by the corporate privatization of America's public elections --- to rely on such secret
software to accurately record and count their votes.
The apparent "good news," however, was incorrect, as The BRAD BLOG has learned. The language from the original bill was changed during the amendment process to strip it of the provisions that would have allowed the public inspection of the secret code!
The good news still left to report is that the bill, signed yesterday by WI Gov. Jim Doyle, will at least require a voter verified paper "record" for every vote cast. In theory, the measure would allow for a manual count or recount of votes in cases where the state determines such a count would be necessary.
Unfortunately, the version of the bill widely cited by election reform advocates was to the original language as introduced on August 24, 2005.
On November 3, 2005 a committee gutted the "disclosed source code" requirement with an Assembly Substitute Amendment 1. That amended deleted AB627 as introduced and replaced it with ASA1.
On November 10, that version was replaced in toto by Assembly Substitution Amendment 2 which is the version eventually signed by the Governor yesterday.
So, we are now going to have to wait for another day to "look under that hood"... Though that day may be coming soon...