To restore the public’s confidence, New Jersey State Senator Joe Pennacchio introduced legislation that would increase the transparency and reliability of elections in the state.
“Elections are the cornerstone of our democracy. Recently, the public has begun questioning the accuracy and security of the election process,” said Pennacchio (R-26). “People have the right to demand elections that are fair and honest, and this bill would help restore faith in the process.”
Pennacchio’s bill, S-4162, would require paper ballots for in-person voters and mandate the use of open-source code for software controlling optical scanners used to record the votes.
“Similar bills are under consideration in state legislatures across the country. Even elected officials in California, where the ‘Secure the Vote Act’ would require open-source paper voting, realize our democracy is threatened when residents question the validity of elections,” Pennacchio said.
“We want to ensure transparency of the mechanisms of voting software and hardware. Currently, the proprietary process is cloaked in secrecy, and neither the voting public nor the media have access to any preliminary data,” said Pennacchio. “People want to know that their vote will be counted, and that they don’t have to worry about vote tampering, or any other interference.”
The Senator’s legislation further addresses the public’s distrust by requiring open-source coding for software controlling scanning equipment and other gear.
The coding used in commercial voting booths is proprietary and can obscure vulnerabilities that hackers may exploit. The code in open-source software, on the other hand, is accessible to the large community of developers who can uncover weaknesses in the system and more importantly, can create transparency of the entire system.
“Requiring the use of open-source coding will allow developers and coding experts to comb through the programs and identify flaws and security vulnerabilities,” said Pennacchio. “It will increase oversight and public confidence in the process.”
In 2019, Switzerland was prepared to roll out a new voting system prior to a national election. When the private source coding was leaked, however, researchers detected numerous weaknesses that went undiscovered by a team of professional auditors.
“Utilizing this unusual pairing of old school process and evolving technology can help ensure the accuracy and reliability of election results and preserve our democracy for many generations to come,” Pennacchio said.