This week the PCEA finally released its long-awaited report to the President. Its loaded with good recommendations. Over the next several days or posts we’ll give you our take on some of them. For the moment, we want to call your attention to a couple of under-pinning elements now that its done.
The Resource Behind the Resources
Early in the formation of what initially was referred to as the “Bauer-Ginsberg Commission” we were asked to visit the co-chairs in Washington D.C. to chat about technology experts and resources. We have a Board member who knows them both and when asked we were honored to respond.
Early on we advised the Co-Chairs that their research would be incomplete without speaking with several election technology experts, and of course they agreed. The question was how to create a means to do so and not bog down the progress governed by layers of necessary administrative regulations.
I take a paragraph here to observe that I was very impressed in our initial meeting with Bob Bauer and Ben Ginsberg. Despite being polar political opposites they demonstrated how Washington should work: they were respectful, collegial, sought compromise to advance the common agenda and seemed to be intent on checking politics at the door in order to get work done. It was refreshing and restored my faith that somewhere in the District there remains a potential for government to actually work for the people. I digress.
We advised them that looking to the CalTech-MIT Voting Project would definitely be one resource they could benefit from having.
We offered our own organization, but with our tax exempt status still pending, it would be difficult politically and otherwise to rely on us much in a visible manner.
So the Chairs asked us if we could pull together a list — not an official subcommittee mind you, but a list of the top “go to” minds in the elections technology domain. We agreed and began a several week process of vetting a list that needed to be winnowed down to about 20 for manageability These experts would be brought in individually as desired, or collectively — it was to be figured out later which would be most administratively expedient. Several of our readers, supporters, and those who know us were aware of this confidential effort. The challenge was lack of time to run the entire process of public recruiting and selection. So, they asked us to help expedite that, having determined we could gather the best in short order.
And that was fine because anyone was entitled to contact the Commission, submit letters and comments and come testify or speak at the several public hearings to be held.
So we did that. And several of that group were in fact utilized. Not everyone though, and that was kind of disappointing, but a function of the timing constraints.
The next major resource we advised they had to include besides CalTech-MIT and a tech advisory group was Rock The Vote. And that was because (notwithstanding they being a technology partner of ours) Rock The Vote has its ear to the rails of new and young voters starting with their registration experience and initial opportunity to cast their ballot.
Finally we noted that there were a couple of other resources they really could not afford to over-look including the Verified Voting Foundation, and L.A. County’s VSAP Project and Travis County’s StarVote Project.
The outcome of all of that brings me to the meat of this post about the PCEA Report and our real contribution. Sure, we had some behind the scenes involvement as I describe above. No big deal. We hope it helped.
The Real Opportunity for Innovation
But the real opportunity to contribute came in the creation of the PCEA Web Site and its resource toolkit pages.
On that site, the PCEA took our advice and chose to utilize Rock The Vote’s open source voter registration tools and specifically the foundational elements the TrustTheVote Project has built for a States’ Voter Information Services Portal.
Together, Rock The Vote and the TrustTheVote Project are able to showcase the open source software that any State can adopt, adapt, and deploy–for free (at least the adoption part) and without having to reinvent the wheel by paying for a ground-up custom build of their own online voter registration and information services portal.
We submit that this resource on their PCEA web site represents an important ingredient to injecting innovation into a stagnant technology environment of today’s elections and voting systems world.
For the first time, there is production-ready open source software available for an important part of an elections official’s administrative responsibilities that can lower costs, accelerate deployment and catalyze innovation.
To be sure, its only a start — its lower hanging fruit of an election technology platform that doesn’t require any sort of certification. With our exempt status in place, and lots of things happening we’ll soon share, there is more, much more, to come. But this is a start.
There is a 112 pages of goodness in the PCEA report. And there are some elements in there that deserve further discussion. But we humbly assert its the availability of some open source software on their resource web site that we think represents a quiet breakthrough in elections technology innovation.
The news has been considerable. So, yep, we admit it. We’re oozing pride today.
And we owe it to your continued support of our cause.
GAM | out