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German Elections Go Open Source 159

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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  • Poetic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:10AM (#3495842) Homepage Journal
    There is a certain sense of poetic justness about using OSS as the engine behind a democratic process.
  • by dmouritsendk ( 321667 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:25AM (#3495893)
    The election results would be prosponed forever, because every single candidate that lost. Have hired a horde of computer scientists to find possible problems with the software being used, that could have effected the results ;)
  • Re:Whereas... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:31AM (#3495914) Homepage Journal
    Actually, mostly Tony Blair himself. Ever noticed how much the guy loves to be in the company of Bill Gates?
    In contrast, the german government had a left-swing in the last general elections, and with the leftist green party came a bunch of people into the parliament that had actually heard of or even - gasp - used Linux. Microsoft only realized when the parliament was publicly discussing using Linux for all its computers, and retaliated with massive lobbying, winning at least a compromise.

    So this is only the latest event in a number of battles for the european governments.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:34AM (#3495921)
    EJB is an overhead for simple stuff, but for systems that are that complex EJB is great.
  • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @09:06AM (#3496070)
    The press release forgot to mention what operating system the computers are using.

    People might think the German government is using a Linux variant, but given that all the tools mentioned in the release probably work under BSD variants I have a feeling that they're using a combination of OpenBSD/FreeBSD, an OS that is much-liked for its ability to handle large numbers of transactions and its very high level of security.
  • by mpe ( 36238 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @09:21AM (#3496174)
    The ballot counting in Germany is still done by hand (which is good, see US elections), so no software at all (opensource or whatever) is involved. You either trust the results, or you don't

    One thing parts of the US have not caught on to is the concept of one ballot paper per election. IIRC some of the voting in the US involves multiple elections on the same physical ballot paper. Which greatly complicates the issue of recounts, there was talk about needing software to work out which ballots were needed for a recount. As opposed to something like "sort out the blue ones".

    You need the raw data to verify the system, again regardless of the software used. Now IF you have the raw data, the you can verify the system, because the algorithem used is public domain. Regardless of open or closed source.

    But if you don't have the source you can't formally verify that it follows the algorithm. You could end up with something which will give the same results the vast majority of the time.
  • Re:Are you sure? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @10:00AM (#3496407) Homepage Journal
    anyone with physical access to the machine can install a version of the software which looks the same but has a back door. It used to be that only the original writers had that power,

    Uh, not true. Tons of software have been backdoored without access to the source code. Just last year at Blackhat Europe, a very bright guy from Australia described in detail a method that could be used to backdoor a running process.

  • ACID (Score:2, Interesting)

    by daBass ( 56811 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @11:04AM (#3496811)
    You don't need full ACID to be reliable, Just look at Sybase or MS SQL server, they both aren't truly due to the lack of multi-versioning that Oracle and Postgress have. That doesn't mean they are not reliable!

    That said: I wouldn't trust MySql for anything. What makes it's acceptance in the open source community even harder to understand for me is the lack of a true GPL. Postgress is very reliable and is GPL. I also wouldn't know how to survive without referential integrity constraints, outer joins, subselects and nested queries!

    But for a project like this, I would certainly go for Sybase or Oracle, I love free/OS software, which is often better than commercial products, but when it comes to database, I am not convinced yet!

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger