As millions of Americans sign up for lifesaving healthcare, it is right that President Barack Obama ordered a "tech surge" to fix glitches in the healthcare.gov website. As the president said "we didn't fight this battle over as website" but as he knows, if the portal doesn't inspire confidence the policy can be attacked. I saw the same thing when I worked at HUD during the Clinton administration - computer glitches, especially for people across the digital divide, lowered confidence in government and allowed opportunistic opponents to cnflate the portal with the policy. For that reason among others,the sooner more Americans join the hundreds of thousands already enrolled in ObamaCare this month the better.
And while there's a bandwagon to build a more transparent healthcare website, today's movement to open source the American healthcare platform can be a moment to open source our country's elections platforms as well. Transparency, both healthcare and in the health of our democracy, can improve public trust and promote the common good.
Fans of ABC's "Scandal" know that rigged elections software in a voting machine in Defiance, Ohio delivered the presidency to Fitzgerald Grant. Of all that series' plot twists and turns, electronic election rigging is one of the most believable. Indeed in my over 8 years of campaign boot camps across the USA. the most frequent question I get is: "Why should we work our hearts out if the fix is already in?"
It doesn't have to be this way. Software developers have been telling the open source voting movement for years that we can eliminate the profiteering middlemen. Direct democracy to the people.has its advocates such as the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation and the Open Voting Consortium (with whom I worked to add open source elections advocacy to the 2010 California Democratic Party Platform).
These open source elections advocates tell us that a basic operating system could be established for national federal elections. Thereafter, states and county registrars could implement this open source elections software with customized accessibility, languages, and other elements produced off the same operating systems "kernel."
Campaigns currently use open source cloud computing and virtualization - for elections to do the same we need a "tech surge" and the political will to eliminate profiteering from proprietary software vendors who zealously guard their advantage in certification and procurement. Even these entrenched vendors of America's current voting machine and software technology have internal controls to verify their work, so we know the capacity for transparency and verification exists.
If, as the Republicans insisted during their ill-conceived $24 billion government shutdown over ObamaCare, transparent verifiable healthcare.gov software is necessary for America's health policy, surely they would agree that transparent verifiable elections software is necessary for America's voting systems. A glitch in healthcare.gov won't jeopardize your insurance or compromise your healthcare - but a glitch in elections software can compromise your voting rights and jeopardize our democracy.