Tagged voter ID

NYT: Smartphone Voting? TrustTheVote: No, But How About This … DIY Voter Lookup

Much as I admire everybody at the New York Times, I have to disagree with Nick Bilton on his piece Disruptions: Casting a Ballot by Smartphone. I have to say I don’t blame him though, especially given the broad range of coverage of the many many kinds election dysfunction that occured and are still occuring now during state canvassing. Just to take a few examples:

But even leaving aside the plethora of discouraging news on election technology, I can also see why Bilton would find it ironic to look at all those long lines of people waiting to vote, and in the meantime using their smart phones to do an enormous range of important things – you’ve just got think

Can’t those smart phones do something useful with all this election mess?

My answer is a resounding “YES!!!” — but not for Internet voting. I won’t bore longtime readers with the details of why Bilton’s comparison with Estonian i-voting is not apt (you can read it in back issues here, or in comments posted on Bilton’s blog). But something else that works right now — and which we helped build — really would work to cut down those long lines a bit, at least in Virginia, plus other states that can freely adopt the open source system. (If you want details on how that works, just ask!)

Here is the situation … Think about all those voters who waited in line for a long time, only to find out that they were in the wrong polling place, or were listed (sometimes incorrectly) as an absentee voter not eligible to vote in person, or … any number of reasons why people had to vote provisionally this year in unusually large numbers. Part of that phenom was (I guess) just that after waiting hours in line, people just said, dang it, I am going to vote here and now, even provisionally, rather than spend more time trying figure out what’s going on.

Who can blame them? Now, I hear some of the experts saying that fancy new e-pollbooks could help, with poll workers working the line before people get to the front, in order to look them up and identify any issues earlier. Good idea! And indeed, low-cost tablet-based e-pollbooks are part of TrustTheVote’s plan for election tech build-out. But with an 8 hour long line, and maybe a couple poll workers not needed inside to polling place, that’s not going to go far. We can go one better.

Here how it works … If you arrived at polling place to find a long line, and a stream of people coming out complaining that they were weren’t on the voting rolls, you could have whipped out your smart phone, gone to https://www.vote.virginia.gov/search (powered by OSDV!), entered your voter ID info, and determined whether you were in the right place, and whether your were eligible to vote. Heck, you could have done that days before the election, and maybe found out that you did have a voter records issue, and how to deal with it, even before getting in any line. When you’ve got a handful of poll-workers and many hundreds of people waiting, do-it-yourself voter lookup works a lot better.

Of course, the new Virginia Voter Services Portal is just getting started, with more features going live for the January elections, and we hope even more after that — including mobile-centric features. If you have a idea for that, please share it with us!


Temporarily Missing, But Still in Action

Happy “Holidaze”

On the eve of 2012 we so need to check in here and let you know we’re still fighting the good fight and have been totally distracted by a bunch of activities.  There is much to catch you up on and we’ll start doing that in the ensuing days,  but for now we simply wanted to check in and wish everyone a peaceful and prosperous new year.  And of course, we intend that to “prosper” is to enrich yourself in any number of ways, not simply financially, but intellectually, physically, and spiritually as well… how ever you chose to do so 😉

Looking back while looking ahead, as this afternoon before the new year urges us all to do, we are thankful for the great headway we made in 2011 (and we’ll have much more to say about those accomplishments separately), and we are energized (and resting up) for the exciting and intense election year ahead.  And that brings me to two thoughts I want to share as we approach the celebration of this New Year’s Eve 2011.

1. A Near #FAIL

First, if there was one effort or project that approached “#fail” for us this year it was our intended work to produce a new open data, open source elections night reporting system for Travis County, TX, Orange County, CA and others.  We were “provisionally chosen” by Travis County pending our ability to shore up a gap in the required funding to complete some jurisdiction specific capabilities.

We approached prospective backers in addition to our current ones and unfortunately we could not get everyone on board quickly enough, and tried to do so on the eve of their budgetary commitments being finalized for other 2012 election year funding commitments, mostly around voter enfranchisement (more on that in a moment.)  We were short answers to 2 questions of Travis County, the answers to which well could have dramatically reduced the remaining fund gap requirement and allowed us to accelerate toward final selection and be ready in time for 2012.

For unexplained reasons, Travis County has fallen silent to answer any of our questions, respond to any of our inquiries, or even continue to advance our discussions.  We fear that something has happened in their procurement process and they simply haven’t gotten around to the courtesy of letting us know.  This is frustrating because we’ve been left in a state of purgatory — really unable to determine where and how to allocate resources without this resolved.  The buck stops with me (Gregory) on this point as I should’ve pushed harder for answers from both sides: Travis on the technical issues and our Backers on the funding question.

I say this was a “near #fail” because it clearly is unresolved: we know Orange County, as well as other jurisdictions, and media channels such as the AP remain quite keen on our design, the capabilities for mobile delivery, the open data, and of course the open source alternative to expensive (on a total cost of ownership or “TCO” basis) proprietary black-box solutions.  Moreover, the election night reporting system is a “not insignificant” component to our open source elections technology framework, and its design and development will continue.  And perhaps we’ll get some clarity on Travis County, close the funding gap, and get that service launched in time for next Fall’s election frenzy.  Stay tuned.

So, that is but one of several distractions that allowed this vital blog to sit idle for the last half of summer and all of the Fall.  We’ll share more about the other distractions in  upcoming posts as we get underway with 2012.  But I have a closing comment about the 2012 election season in this final evening of 2011.

2.  The 2012 Battles on the Front-lines of Democracy Will Start at the Polling Place

Millions of additional Americans will be required to present photo ID when they arrive at the polls in four states next year.  Kansas, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas will require voters to prove their identities, bringing the total number of States to 30 that require some form of voter identification, this according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

This is an issue that has reached the boiling point and we predict will set off a storm of lawsuits (and they are happening already).  It ranks very close to redistricting in terms of its impact on voter enfranchisement according to one side of the argument.  Opponents also argue that such regulations impose an unfair barrier to those who are less likely to have photo IDs, including the poor and the elderly.  The proponents stand steadfast that the real issue is voter fraud and this is the best way to address it.  Of course, the trouble with that argument is that after a five-year U.S. DoJ probe lasting across two different administrations found little (53 cases) discernible evidence of widespread voter fraud.   And yet, there are also reasonable arguments suggesting that regardless of voter fraud, there seems to be no difficulty in our elderly, disabled or poor obtaining ID cards (where required) in order to enable them to obtain Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps.

To be clear: the Foundation has no opinion on the matter of voter ID.  We see arguments on both sides.  Our focus is simply this: any voter identification process must be fair, not burdensome, transparent, and uniformly applied.  We’re far more vested in how to make technology to facilitate friction-free access to the polling place that produces a verifiable, audit-ready, and accountable paper trail for all votes.  We do believe that implementing voter ID as a means to restrict the vote is troublesome… as troublesome as preventing voter ID in order to passively enable those who are not entitled as a matter of citizenship to cast a ballot.

Regardless of how you come down on this issue, we believe it will be where the battles begin in the 2012 election season over enfranchising or disenfranchising voters begins.

And with that, we say, 2012: bring it.  We’re ready.  Be there: its going to be an interesting experience.  Here we go.

Voter Identification: A Politically Hot Tater-Tot

Part of the ecosystem of next generation voting technology certainly concerns voter registration. And then along the procees chain comes the "check in" of voters to vote (regardless of where or how they vote …absentee by mail, in person, or apparently over the Internet for some over-seas, etc.) …in other words, verifying the person is the person they claim as listed on the Register and entitled to a ballot.

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