A Vote For Science

IT failures nudge out democracy

It does not matter what the candidates think or what the voters think if voter database management and voting technology problems determine the outcome of the next election.

…a new study by Common Cause and the Century Foundation finds that 10 very vital swing states have significant voting problems that have not been addressed since the last election.

Those 10 states, according to Common Cause, are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

And, an important agency charged with keeping election officials informed of voting technology problems appears to not have been doing their jobs.

Details can be found in this report by CNN and this report in PDF form by Common Cause.


  1. #1 Tony P
    September 20, 2008

    I was an active participant in the design and implementation of RI’s Central Voter Registration System. It’s a pretty solid and secure system So no failure in RI.

    The system was completely redundant and based in at a minimum of two location should physical disaster take out one site. It’s also on a protected network and the only internet availability is a voter database replica on a MySQL server. In it you can lookup your voting records, etc.

    RI has a fairly decent paper ballot based system. It’s the scanning systems I’m leary about. But here in RI the problem is more lack of political interest than anything.

  2. #2 greg laden
    September 20, 2008

    Tony: Personally, I think the only valid system will have these characteristics:

    1) The ballot is paper and unambiguously designed.

    2) If there is electronic technology, it is to produce and read ballots, not to record the vote. If a touch screen marked a paper ballot that the voter then takes to a different location (a few feet away) and submits, that is fine;l

    3) Any technology used is NOT produced by a commercial company. Ever.

  3. #3 Pierce R. Butler
    September 20, 2008

    Even if voting systems actually are ratproof (hah!), so long as they are seen as corruptible, that perception fuels distrust, discouragement, and worse.

    At this point, anything less than an impartially administered and heavily audited paper balloting system is a direct attack on democracy.

  4. #4 David Bruggeman
    September 21, 2008

    The CNN report reads like the reporter failed to read the GAO report. That they didn’t link to that report adds to my suspicion. You can read it online (PDF)

    The GAO report focused on NIST and the Election Assistance Commission and their responsibilities in accrediting the labs that test voting machines. To borrow from a blog post I made on the topic:

    “The main thrust of the GAO criticism is that the supporting materials – the standards and program manuals – have not adequately defined all the aspects of an effective testing regime. What standards and practices have been put in place are not sufficiently delineated to the point where they can be used repeatedly and consistently. Now the GAO acknowledges that the EAC has responded to the report by taking some necessary first steps, but more needs to be done.”

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