Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

My Photo
Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Helping America Vote

I subscribe to the Computer Risks forum, and a mule they've been beating on for over a decade is the fallibility of computerized voting. Recently another subscriber, Avi Rubin, described his experience as an election official in a precinct which was trying to figure out their spanking-new electronic voting machine for the 1st time. Suffice it to say that it's a damn good thing for them that they had a computer professional like Avi on the scene.

Here's a follow-up message from another subscriber.

= = = = = =

Date: Wed, 13 Sep 2006 23:50:08 +0200
From: "Kurt Fredriksson"
Subject: Re: Avi Rubin's latest report as an election judge

I'm a Swede and is a bit puzzled about the eletronic voting that seems to become so popular in the US.

As we are going to have a general election this sunday (sept 17), I can't help making a comparison.

The precinct Avi was reporting from had over 1000 voters. The precinct I am going to use this sunday has around 1200 voters of which around 1000 usually show up. Thus quite similar in size.

Avi had 12 machines and 16 judges, opening hours 0700 - 2200, long queues.

We have no machines (old fashion paper ballots) and 3 + 3 layman officials, opening hours 0800 - 2000, no queues.

After 2000 (8 pm) the votes for the the Swedish Parliament are handcounted at the precinct in the presence of all interested. That takes about one hour. These results are then telephoned to the central authority. All votes are then recounted a couple of days later, to get the official result. This recount is also performed in the presence of all interested. All votes are kept in sealed and secured boxes during transport.

What are the advantages with electronic voting? Reading Avi's blog makes one wonder.

= = = = = =

I, meanwhile, have another concern. I worked as an election official during Wisconsin's primary election Tue. Sep. 12. Since it's difficult to staff the election stations on the University of Wisconsin campus with residents of those wards (most of whom have only been back in town for a couple of weeks at that point), the city clerk's office uses permanent residents from elsewhere in Madison, such as me.

While all of us election officials are trained to handle any of the tasks that can come up at a polling place, we usually end up doing one of them most of the time. My specialty was registration. (Wisconsin allows citizens to register at the polls on election day -- the so-called "Motor Voter" policy.) Because it was a campus ward, we had a whole lot of young people (ages 18 and 19) who were registering to vote for the very 1st time anywhere, as well as a fair number who were already registered elsewhere but needed to change their official address of residence.

In the past, we've always been willing to accept machine-printed change-of-address labels from the US Postal Service and machine-printed addresses on subscription magazines as proof of residence. However, beginning with this election, we were told by the city clerk's office that the State Elections Board had ruled that these items were NOT acceptable. As a result, we had to turn away upwards of half a dozen bright-eyed, enthusiastic, conscientious young people who were eager to participate in the democratic process. I am ashamed to have had to make their 1st experience with democracy such a disappointment to them.

It appears to me that we now have another bead on the Necklace of Shame:
 • Clear Skies Act
 • Healthy Forests Initiative
 • No Child Left Behind
 • Help America Vote Act

Yes, these are all examples of where a clear-cut problem has been identified (in this case, people being denied the chance to vote, or not having their votes counted), and the Bush Administration and its Congressional harem step forward with a legislative proposal whose TITLE proposes to address the problem (help America vote), but whose SUBSTANCE does the exact reverse -- indeed, exacerbates the problem.

This is what happens when lying becomes so habitual that it starts to seem normal.


Post a Comment

<< Home