So I was watching an episode of Dan Rather reports on HD Net last night - episode 227 where he talks about the voting machine industry - both touchscreen and paper ballots.
While he brings up some excellent points about how paper ballots, when manufactured correctly, are a great way to count votes - the show made me think even more about the voting machine industry and how secretive it is about the inner workings. He made in interesting comment about whether or not the thing that is one of the cornerstones of the American way, voting, should be shrouded in mystery and covered up like it is.
It made me think - there are so many opensource technologies that are if not as complicated then at least approaching it - from the software point of view at least. There are the obvious things like Firefox, MySQL and Asterisk. There are the hundreds of applications, plug-ins and sundry items that you find on SourceForge.
What's been missing? A hardware platform. Well, as it so happens there is a new company being backed by Fred and the guys at USV - Bug Labs. On the Bug Labs roadmap for Q4 2007 is a touch sensitive screen.
In watching the sorry a$$ user interface I KNOW that the open source community can do better.
So what would it take? That's a damn good question.
I think the obvious first step is to create the wiki (for lack of a better idea) to base the idea from. You then need to break down the tasks into subcategories like hardware, software, security (physical, software), networking/communications, etc. Then get people excited about each of the areas and watch 'em go. I'd love to be able to access that one day a week that Googlers are able to spend on "outside projects" for this - I'm betting we could get a mockup done in weeks.
It would be hard to get many people excited about a pie in the sky idea with no end game - no payoff - be it literal or not. So I think soon after the beginning of the development process we would need to find two things - 1) someone that is willing to be a guinea pig and 2) someone that is willing to pay for it. That could be one in the same but it doesn't have to be.
I'm thinking that #1 could be some smaller community, likely in a tech friendly and progressive state (Vermont? California?). Someone that is willing to take a chance. The only problem is that we're going to be asking them to take a chance with that most American of rights - voting. How do you get them over the hump? A problem but one that I'm sure can be overcome.
I bet that #2 won't be as hard as we think. There's going to be someone out there with the moderate amount of money that will be required that will foot the bill to help pay Bug for the HW. Once the HW is paid for then the SW and assembly will be the sweat equity.
There has been so much written and screamed about for the last few years over voting - it's time to do something about it.