Despite today’s blog docket being for RockTheVote, I just can’t resist pointing out a recurring type of technology-triggered election dysfunction that is happening again, and is 100% preventable using election technology that we have already developed.
Here’s the scoop: in St. Lucie County, Florida, the LEOs are having trouble coming up with a county wide grand total of votes, because their adding machine (for totting up the the subtotals from dozens of voting machines) has a great feature for human error. The full details are bit complex in terms of handling of data sticks and error messages, but I’ve been told that in early voting in 94 precincts, 40 precincts weren’t counted at all, and 54 were counted twice. Thank goodness someone noticed afterwards! (Well, 108 precincts totaled out of 94 might have been a tip off.) Sure, human error was involved, but it is not a great situation where software allows this human error to get through.
We’re only talking about software that adds up columns of numbers here! A much better solution would be one where the software refuses to add in any sub-total more than once, and refuses to identify as a finished total anything where there is a sub-total missing. Of course! And I am sure that the vendor of St. Lucie’s GEMS system has a fix for this problem in some later version of the software or some successor product. But that’s just not relevant if an election official doesn’t have the time, budget, support contract, or procurement authority to test the better upgrade, and buy it if it works satisfactorily!
What’s sad is that it is completely preventable by using an alternative adding machine like the one we developed last year (OK, shameless plug) — which of course does all these cross-checks. The LEOs would need to translate that vendor-proprietary subtotal data into a standard format — and I know some volunteer programmers who I bet would do that for them. They’d need to use an ordinary PC to run the open source tabulation software — and I know people who would set it up for them as a public service. And they’d have to spend less than half an hour using the system to get their totals, and comparing them to the totals that their GEMS system provided.
And maybe, in order for it to be kosher, it would have to be a “pilot effort” with oversight by the EAC; we’ve already discussed that with them and understand that the resource requirements are modest. I bet we could find a FL philanthropist who would underwrite the costs without a 2nd thought other than how small the cost was compared to the public benefit of the result – that is, avoiding one more day of delay in a series that’s causing a State to not be done with the election, more than a week after election day.
It’s just one example of the many possible election integrity benefits that can be demonstrated using technology that, so far at any rate, only non-commercial technologists have been willing to develop for governments to use to do their job correctly — in this case, producing timely and accurate election results.