Transparency: Government Offers Data to Mine

In the next step on the topic of voting machines and transparency, let me explain what I meant in a previous posting about a “side effect” of adoption of TTV technology for machine counts of optically scanned ballots. The ballot counting software, like pretty much all we make, logs the heck out of everything, and leaves no useful data behind. The side effect I mentioned would be in the context of local election officials using the TTV ballot counting technology in their locality — presumably for a variety of reasons notably including that it does what they told us they wanted to do, reliably!

But as a result, these hypothetical election officials would be sitting on trove for data-miners who want transparency of election operations, and the ability to drill down on details as much as possible. So the side effect is that the election officials could decide to use features to publish this trove. That’s the enhanced transparency-enabler that I’ve mentioned. (Sorry if that’s not a “ta-da” moment for you. 😉 )

But to make this a bit more concrete, here is an example of the type of data I am talking about: check out recent results from the Humboldt County Transparency Project, which shows how to publish the image of a scanned ballot, and the data behind the machine interpretation of a” vote.” That’s a concrete example of informaiton like the “voted ballot record” that various election tech people talk about. (We’ll shortly be publishing a report on how this capture is done in part of the TTV Suite under development.)

And for a concrete example of the practice of publishing, try reporting on Local Governments Offer Data to Software Tinkerers. Now just imagine your local election officials joining the party with as much info (about ballots, voting, counting, aggregating, reporting, election results, …) as they can legally release. Now you’ve got the idea — a geeky sort of transparency and public benefit, perhaps, but potentially very powerful.


One response to “Transparency: Government Offers Data to Mine

  1. And don’t forget which recently announced the posting of the 2004 Post-Election Survey data from the Federal Voting Assistance Program. The Survey covered voting activities of military, overseas citizens, local election officers, and voting assistance officers, in executing the voting assistance programs required under UOCAVA.

    You can also see all of FVAP’s data from previous election surveys, as well as online copies of various UOCAVA reports at the FVAP website:

    Tell us what needs to be added. But, much more data to follow.

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