How legal challenges during elections could come down to source code in escrow

Over the past few days, everyone’s eyes have been focused on the outcome of the 2020 US election.  Glitches within computer software updates have been reported as the cause of some errors in voting tabulation software across certain states.

In order to maintain transparency and to ensure that ballot software has not been tampered with, most US state governments require the source code of vote counting software to be placed into escrow.

An example of the stringent software escrow requirements for ballot tally software for the State of California can be found following this link: State of California

An excerpt of the text reads as follows:

Ballot tally software program source code(s) (or hereinafter: ‘source code’) shall be placed in escrow in order to:

  1. Protect and enhance the integrity of elections by ensuring that ballot tally software programs used in California elections have not been tampered with or otherwise altered and that elections continue to accurately reflect the will of the voters as expressed by their votes on computer-read ballots;
  2. Create a record of all versions, including changes or modifications of the source code materials placed in escrow;
  3. Create a record of all applications for access to the source code materials placed in escrow;
  4. Unless otherwise superseded by a contract between a vendor and an election jurisdiction, preserve the necessary source code information to permit the election jurisdiction to continue the use and maintenance of the source code in the event the vendor is unable, or otherwise fails, to provide maintenance.

In any election if there is suspicion of software glitches or illicit tampering of the ballot tally software, then the courts would be involved. They could demand access to the source code held in escrow and request for it to be reviewed by independent experts to verify the integrity of the deposited source code.

To learn more about software escrow, SaaS escrow and automated deposits of source code directly from GitHub, Bitbucket and other Git’s visit Escrow London