Belgium's federal and regional governments make available the source code used in its new, Linux-based, voting machines the day after the elections. The aim however is not to enable sharing and reuse, but to show that the code contains nothing fraudulent.
Technical documentation for the machines is also available, but only following official requests under the freedom of information act, adds Tom Doesselaere, project leader for local elections in the Flemish Region.
For elections in the Flemish Region, the source code used in the voting machines is made available on www.vlaanderenkiest.be. "We've been making voting machine's source code available for years. You can still find the code used in the previous, outdated system, for the federal elections in 2006", says Doesselaere. "There are not many countries that do this."
The 2006 code is made available in two zip files, with neither a licence nor a copyright statement.
Doesselaere says the aim of the publishing of the code is to enable citizens to monitor the election system. "That explains why more information is only made available following an official request. We want to avoid having to send around hundreds of copies of the documentation. We're not publishing the code in order to get responses, but to show it contains nothing fraudulent."
"At each election, there are a few citizens that are interested in looking at the source code. Afterwards, we never hear from them again. I suppose that means that they're content."
The software used for the actual voting is owned by the regional, Flemish and Brussels governments. They use an election application that is tailor-made for every election. For the upcoming elections on 14 October the requirements are drawn up by the Flemish government. For the regional, federal and European elections in 2014 the requirements will come from the Belgian Ministry of the Interior. "And the customisations they request are very minor tweaks."
The voting machines have no hard disk and just a few bytes of flash memory. For each election, a tailored version of Linux and the list of candidates are loaded from a USB drive.
The governments started using the Linux voting machines in October last year. The new voting machines use Ubuntu, says Doesselaere.
Asked if the software could somehow be used by other governments, Doesselaere refers to the Belgian Ministry of the Interior. The ministry did not yet respond to questions. However, Doesselaere knows of no request from other governments in relation to the voting machine software.
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2006 federal election code