Tom has a discussion about Diebold and their efforts to plug the leak of an embarrassing set of memos about their voting machines. I have little to add; I’m quite put off by the the idea that my vote can be recorded, transmitted, and counted inside a machine that is patented, proprietary, produces no auditable output, and inspires comments like this from its designers:

“If voting could really change things, it would be illegal.”

Tom comments:

And now for the full-on, utterly predictable bit where I do my open-source zealot shtick. If we’re going to have e-voting of any kind, I want to see the code. OK, I personally may well not want to see the sources, but I certainly do believe that anyone who reckons that they can make some sense of the them, and might be able to point out bugs and some potential fixes, should have the ability to see all the code for the software that ends up determining who gets to govern us. Security through obscurity won’t do.

Maybe my nascent something-to-do-with-open-source dissertation should be moving in this kind of direction, to consider the growth of issues like this, a growth arguably made possible by the zeal of people like Tom. The controversy over voting machines is certainly broader than code, but it highlights that arguments about OSS really matter in the real world. After all, if OSS is to be a meaningful “movement,” its effects should be visible in the community of activists, powerholders and others who are emph not coders. Arguments may be made that open source contributes to legitimate contention over the development of proprietary voting machines; other may suggest that proprietary voting machines make open source particularly important in a general sense. Either way, open source seems to play a role in developing claims about contemporary contentious politics.