Bonum Certa Men Certa

How Microsoft Squashed Free/Open Source Software in Voting Systems in the United States

Insecure-by-design systems a misfit in any democracy

Voter



Summary: Microsoft is interfering with efforts to put Free/Open Source software in voting machines, ensuring that these machines continue to have back doors (Windows)

THE presence of Microsoft lobbyists is global/universal. We recently wrote about how Microsoft had successfully squashed Free/Open Source software-leaning rules in India, just like in Chile last year. Microsoft lobbying was done also by proxy and in the UK we found out that Microsoft was blackmailing British politicians, as recently as weeks ago. Microsoft is just a bully like that. Given its influence in the United States government, we expect much of the same in the US, if not more and worse.



"Microsoft lobbying in this area is a scarcely explored topic."Microsoft wages war on politics in all sorts of ways, sometimes through lobbyists, sometimes through 'former' staff, pseudo 'charities' like the Gates Foundation, and pressure groups like the Business Software Alliance.

Today we present information given to us courtesy of the California Association of Voting Officials. They complain about Microsoft lobbyists and they have expressed an interest in aligning for global issues, for they too realise that Microsoft cannot be ignored if society wants fair elections and ultimately pursues voting machinery that can be trusted.

Microsoft lobbying in this area is a scarcely explored topic. There is very little information about it out there, hence we hardly ever covered the topic. It is widely known, however, that voting machines in the US use Windows, which has back doors and therefore can never be trusted, with or without tampering by a human operator. Putting Windows in voting machines gives plenty of leeway for mischief, especially by those with simpler access to the back doors. Consider, for instance, how Korean spies (the KCIA) famously meddled in South Korea's elections.

At the early stages of research for the article we were trying to see or at least understand the relation Microsoft lobbyists have to voting machines. We have hardly heard of that before. There is a lot to it other than today's proposed solutions being "open source", which is probably where Microsoft lobbyists come in. Somehow, despite public will to induce transparency, accountability, audits etc. on the process, decades later we are still so heavily dependent on a proprietary, secretive system (or set thereof). Politics being determined by such a system (secret formula) won't inspire public confidence. It breeds abuse and corruption and leads to reminiscing of the events in Florida 15 years ago (when George Bush got 'elected').

"We put open source language into voting system legislation," told us someone from the California Association of Voting Officials, "and the Microsoft lobbyists have it removed.

"This must be stopped as OS voting systems are a preferred security environment for vote tabulation... the alternative being Diebold/ Dominion / Microsoft etc."

We asked for additional information so that we can present it in an article, specifying what they have done and who has done it. Here is what we got:

The head attorneys for President Obama's election report ( which omitted open source voting system solutions even though the information was gifted to them ) work for firms that lobby and / or represent Microsoft / Bob Bauer of Perkins Coie and Ben Ginsburg of Pattons Boggs /Jones Day

http://electionlawblog.org/?p=50792

Nate Persily was tasked with presenting the President with all information.. but inexplicably failed to include any reference to open source in the report. When asked about this omission - and possible steps to remedy ( addendum etc ) Persily went silent.

No members of the Presidential Committee were responsive..

In California -- which is the frontline of the battle for open source voting systems in the USA -- the lobbyist for the California Association of Clerks and Elected Officials Barry Brokaw- http://sacramentoadvocates.com/brokaw.html is also the lobbyist for Microsoft . --This may explain why the CACEO has been blocking efforts toward publicly owned General Public License voting system in California

US congressman Rush Holt's bill 811 https://votingmatters.wordpress.com/from-rep-rush-holts-website-about-hr-811/ had open source included .. but it was mysteriously taken out - apparently at the direction of MS lobbyists and Verified Voting . Verified Voting is headed by David Dill - a Stanford Professor with Silicon Valley / Microsoft ties .. Verified Voting also employs Sarah Grootius Vilms from Patton Boggs as a lobbyist

A few days ago Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced she was filing a lawsuit in Ohio to challenge their voting laws .. but her legal team is again led by attorneys from Perkins Coie -- and there was no mention of tabulation or software. We have again contacted them to request their attention to that part of proper election reform

Also a bit more of the story-- There is a group called OSET ( Open Source Election Technology ) that is attempting to sell bogus software that is NOT open source as it purports to be.. per the Open Source Initiative standards,, They call it ' open Public license "-- It is " open -washing " and very dangerous -- They are trying to sell it to US jurisdictions

Mitch Kapor is the owner of OSET -- He previously owned Lotus - KC Brandscomb was Mitch Kapor's CEO at Lotus -- and is married to IDEO's Kelly IDEO recently received a 15 million dollar sole source contract from Los Angeles County , CA for a design that Alan Dechert and Open Voting Consortium gifted L.A. for free years back ( a ballot printing system.)

KC's brother Harvie is now heading up efforts toward election reform in Colorado-- Colorado is going toward a uniform system . and Harvie would appreciate OSET " kinda sorta " OS being used.. especially since Colorado is being heralded as the model by CA

http://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1996/06/10/213266/index.htm


This is "all public info," explained our source, but "attribution should be given to the California Association of Voting Officials -- not for the information provided -- but rather for our efforts toward open source voting solutions."

We have meanwhile noticed new efforts to exclude Free/Open Source "In Many Situations" [1], based on Wikileaks' disclosure of the TISA Agreement (in current form). Forbes has just explained that it is "clearly something that the many lobbyists from the likes of Microsoft will have wanted to see included." [2]

"Legislative capture via government mandates would be great," explained our source, "but that is the holy grail and not presently considered achievable in the USA, so this is no shock. Secret agreements are certainly bad though."

If any of our readers are aware of Microsoft intervention in Free/Open Source voting legislation in any other country, please let us know. It is almost definitely done elsewhere, but finding evidence of it is the hard part. Mirosoft itself has been rigging votes, not just voting systems.

Related/contextual items from the news:


  1. TISA Agreement Might Outlaw Governments From Mandating Open Source Software In Many Situations
    Now, this is nowhere near complete -- it is "bracketed text" which is still being negotiated, and Colombia already opposes the text. Also, some may argue that the second bullet point, which says it only applies to "mass market" software and not "critical infrastructure" software solves some of these issues. Finally, some might argue that this is reasonable if looked at from the standpoint of a commercial provider of proprietary software, who doesn't want to have to cough up its source code to a government just to win a grant.

    But, if that language stays, it seems likely that any government that ratifies the agreement could not then do something like mandate governments use open source office products. And that should be a choice those governments can make, if they feel that open source software is worth promoting and provides better security, reliability and/or cost effectiveness when compared to proprietary software. That seems tremendously problematic, unless you're Microsoft.


  2. Leaked Draft Trade Agreement Could Threaten Open Source Deployment
    But another section also caught my eye, and indeed it seems that it could make things very difficult for governments that are prioritizing open source.

    The offending paragraph, proposed by Japan, reads: “No Party may require the transfer of, or access to, source code of software owned by a person of another Party, as a condition of providing services related to such software in its territory.”

    This is clarified with: “For purposes of this Article, software subject to paragraph 1 is limited to mass-market software, and does not include software used for critical infrastructure.”

    This certainly makes some sort of sense. It means countries can’t require companies based abroad to hand over their source code, and is clearly something that the many lobbyists from the likes of Microsoft will have wanted to see included.


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