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German Elections Go Open Source 159

Posted by michael
from the one-small-step-for-the-bundestag dept.
Get Behind the Mule writes "The Heise news ticker is reporting that the software used by the German government to handle the results of the Bundestag election (that's the national parliament) on September 22nd will be based on open source platforms. The system will be written in Java and deploy Tomcat, JBoss and MySQL, and is being developed by the Berlin software firm IVU (here's their press release), working with the Statisches Bundesamt (the federal statistics office). It's not clear from the announcements whether the source code of the application itself, and not just the servers it runs on, will be publically available. Nevertheless, one is reminded of the argument of Peruvian congressman Dr. Edgar David Villanueva Nuñez (seen recently in Slashdot) that open source software enables citizens of a democracy to see for themselves whether the work of government, such as elections, is conducted as it should be. All of the announcements are in German, so go fish. The software, as described in the announcements, will compute preliminary results (which are announced as soon as possible after the polls close), run plausibility checks, and determine the Bundestag membership as well as distribution of seats to the political parties. It will use web clients for entry of voting data, data import, presentation of results, and preparation of printed results. It will be based on a three-level architecture (apparently standard J2EE) and deploy Enterprise Java Beans."
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German Elections Go Open Source

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  • Better than Babel? (Score:5, Informative)

    by clickety6 (141178) on Friday May 10, 2002 @07:15AM (#3495857)
    Try the following translator instead of Babelfish.
    I think it gives a more readable result, especially as it keeps the paragraph formatting.

    http://translator.abacho.de/translate.phtml
  • Whereas... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bennn (558883) on Friday May 10, 2002 @07:22AM (#3495886)
    ...The UK government jump into bed with M$, having trialed electronic voting for the first time last week. Any bets on a landslide victory for Tony come the next general election? Irrespective of which button the pesky voters actually pushed...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 10, 2002 @07:44AM (#3495959)
    Hi there,
    there is more going on in Germany regarding
    OSS in government or public institutions :

    The german Bundestag (parliament) will put Linux
    on its 150 servers. See http://www.heise.de/newsticker/result.xhtml?url=/n ewsticker/data/odi-28.02.02-000/default.shtml&word s=Bundestag%20Linux
    (this article is in german language).

    Police in Lower Saxony ("Niedersachsen",
    Germany's second largest state) plans to use
    Linux on 11000 clients as of 2004.
    See http://www.heise.de/newsticker/result.xhtml?url=/n ewsticker/data/odi-17.04.02-000/default.shtml&word s=Niedersachsen%20Polizei%20Linux
    (again german). There is also a press
    announcement about this on the web page of Lower Saxony Police. See http://www.polizei.niedersachsen.de/aktuell/index. html

    Unrelated, but maybe also interesting :
    Debeka, market leader in private health insurances in Germany already uses Linux
    on 3000 clients. See SuSE's web page :
    http://www.suse.de/en/press/press_releases/arch ive 01/smartclient.html
    (in English)

    I would be interested to learn what the situation in the US is with regards to OSS
    in public institutions ?

    Have a nice day (I guess, noone says this
    anymore today ?)
    Anonymous Coward
  • by darkcookie (323852) on Friday May 10, 2002 @07:55AM (#3496003) Homepage
    Hi,

    my wife is a teacher of a german primary school and there she is a representative for new technologies. So I get all the info-material the school gets from our government for consulting issues ;-)

    And, i'm impressed of the OpenSource-activities they do for german schools. For example they support the opensource school-server project [heise.de] of the (IMHO best) german computer magazine c't [heise.de] and have a detailed brochure about the use of open-source software.

    darkcookie
  • by r3v3ng (563409) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:39AM (#3496288)
    I have never has a problem with PostgreSQL, its usability and speed kick over MySQL,
    We have used out PostgreSQL server running millions of rows without a problem for a year or so now,
    under MySQL I have performance drop off with only about 5000 rows...
  • Re:MySQL? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kerg (71582) on Friday May 10, 2002 @09:14AM (#3496518)
    My big question is why use JBoss and Tomcat?

    JBoss implements the whole J2EE platform (including Enterprise JavaBeans, Messaging, Connector Architecture, Management Extensions, etc etc). Tomcat only implements the web layer (servlet & JSPs). JBoss can embed Tomcat as its web tier implementation, although I think using Jetty [mortbay.org] would have been more reliable and better performing choice as a servlet/JSP container.

  • by bckspc (172870) on Friday May 10, 2002 @09:35AM (#3496664) Homepage
    If you're interested in this sort of thing, check out the GNU Free voting project at http://www.free-project.org/ [free-project.org]. From the site:

    We are a free software project creating Java electronic voting software released under the General Public License [gnu.org] (GPL). With this software we aim to:-

    Provide a secure and private system

    Create scalable and reliable software

    Offer a non-commercial, non-partisan voting alternative

    Use the GPL to create an open system that Internet users will trust

    Release a system that can be used to support the growth of effective democracy anywhere in the world Additionally, in support of our wider development community, the project aims to:-

    • Advocate the free software paradigm
    • Evangelise the use of technology to strengthen democracy within a holistic understanding of the current malaise i.e. Internet voting alone isn't going to solve turnout problems
    As an official GNU [gnu.org] package and one of two electronic voting projects of FreeDevelopers.net [freedevelopers.net] our Free Software evangalism aims our particularly important.
  • Ummm... (Score:4, Informative)

    by ttfkam (37064) on Friday May 10, 2002 @01:24PM (#3498262) Homepage Journal
    PostgreSQL is also easy to install, setup, and use (admittedly without replication -- that's true). It is just installed with RPM and "createdb". No biggie.

    It's not ACID, but very reliable? That's a bit of an anachronism. ACID isn't a library or a protocol to which you must be compatible -- it's a minimum guideline for reliability. ACID is a contract that says that if you put it in, you will be able to get it out again, unharmed, unchanged, and every time.

    Atomicity: In a transaction involving two or more discrete pieces of information, either all of the pieces are committed or none are.

    Consistency: A transaction either creates a new and valid state of data, or, if any failure occurs, returns all data to its state before the transaction was started.

    Isolation: A transaction in process and not yet committed must remain isolated from any other transaction.

    Durability: Committed data is saved by the system such that, even in the event of a failure and system restart, the data is available in its correct state.

    ----------

    In short, by saying that "it's not ACID, yet it's VERY reliable" in reality means "it's not 100% percent reliable, but it's at least 85%."

    If I delete a record that is a foreign key reference for other records, will MySQL guarantee that the record cannot be deleted or that every record that points to it is also deleted dependant upon admin preferences? PostgreSQL does.

    MySQL has many more utilities to repair and maintain integrity of its databases than PostgreSQL. It's true. But then again, the authors of PostgreSQL have designed and engineered the datastore so that catastrophic data integrity failure cannot occur in the first place. Hardware failures (memory loses bits or hard drive fails to write correctly) can cause it, but even pulling the plug, while putting the most recent changes in jeopardy, will not destroy your committed data.

    And before anyone comes forward with tales of PostgreSQL data integrity issues, please check that you are talking about v7.1 or later (available for more than a year).

    Now then, on to issues of vacuum. I admit this can be a time sink. As you run updates and inserts on a PostgreSQL database, the indexes are not quite as efficient as they started (hence the need for vacuum) but it's not all bad as that. Most people would only have to run vacuum every night at 3am (or something like that) from a cron job. In short, PostgreSQL requires a minimum level of maintenance for optimum perfomance. Note that I did not say that it needs maintenance to keep your data safe -- only to maintain optimum performance. And nothing replaces good backups for any database.

    And before you say, "But PostgreSQL's vacuum locks the table so you can't get work done," please note that 7.2 removes this constraint.

    Will someone honestly try to say with a straight face that you would trust a MySQL database with gobs of data for an extended time without performing at least minor maintenance? If someone does, please tell me that they aren't running the German election database...
  • by tschild (232450) on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:20PM (#3499060)
    With a centralized, standard voting system like Germany's open source plan, I would just have to know how to rig one system.

    You might succeed, if you managed to subvert the central system, to have an incorrect result announced to the media on election day.

    However this would soon be corrected, as the raw data for the permanent result will be published from the voting district level upwards.

    The staff in the voting districts (which usually cover about 100-1000 registered voters) is made up of volunteers, mostly of nonpolitical city employees but also of party activists who volunteer to keep an eye on things. Occasionally, when appointed staff members have fallen sick, an early voter might get drafted. We are usually 8-10 persons and very, very unlikely to find anything in common to conspire for.

    The counting of votes is open to the public (even if usually nobody, or the janitor of the school where the voting office is, looks in).

    When we have counted, held a vote on any unclear ballot papers and the sums add up, we phone the results in to the city level. These results are further aggregated to the electoral district level and then, presumably, transmitted to Berlin in order to be processed by the software in question. Then we write up the protocol, package and seal the ballot papers into the voting box, and go home.

    The local election commission (staffed by the town and by party representatives) later breaks the seal, reviews the unclear ballot papers (usually less then 1%), and perhaps also samples some votes for recounts. The result of the local election commission is the final one, and is aggregated into the federal final result. If I rightly recollect from the last federal elections, both the preliminary and the final results were published in our local paper on the voting district level. Of course we voting district volunteers would notice if results diverged from what we got on the evening of the election.

    From the published voting-district level all calculations can be done with pen and paper, and will be by hopeful candidates who just did not get in.

    The major safeguards of such a system are that the calculation of the final result can be checked by anyone on the outside. Of course, significantly, this only remains true if we stay with pen-and-paper ballots. The cost of that is that (at a rough guess) 1 % - 2 % of the voters have to serve in the voting offices

Power corrupts. And atomic power corrupts atomically.

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