Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New California Online Voter Guide for May 19th election

The California Voter Foundation's new California Online Voter Guide is now available online, providing voters with easy access to reliable, nonpartisan information about the six propositions on the May 19th statewide special election ballot. See CVF's news release for more details about the project.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The passing of an election integrity hero

This morning I learned that John Gideon passed away last night. The news has saddened many people, including me, who knew John and greatly value his contribution to election reform. He was a tireless champion of truth and relentless in his efforts to hold election officials accountable. Nearly every day for several years he published a free newsletter, "Daily Voting News", which I and hundreds of other folks received, providing a compilation of important stories and developments in voting technology and elections.

He will be missed by many, for his tenacity, his commitment to integrity and his unwavering belief that the American people deserve better voting equipment than we are getting. One person who greatly admired John Gideon was Rush Holt, the congressman from New Jersey who has carried legislation for several years to require more secure and accountable voting equipment nationwide. Congressman Holt had this to say about John Gideon:
“I share the deep sense of sadness of everyone in the voting integrity community at the untimely loss of this giant of a man whom we all relied on for the most up-to-date information on issues related to electronic voting security through his Daily Voting News and the endless research and reports on the website. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. He will be missed greatly.”

In addition, Brad Friedman, editor of the Bradblog, has written a wonderful tribute to John on his web site and posted some photos. Here's an excerpt:
"...he connected the seemingly disparate dots of local stories, and apparently anecdotal woes, into a cohesive tale of a nation struggling to regain footing on the pedestal on which it had once, and still hoped to stand."

Monday, April 20, 2009

States turn to Web 2.0 tools for upcoming elections

Today the Politics Online conference is taking place in Washington, D.C., and California Secretary of State Debra Bowen spoke on a panel there today about how she sees new technologies being implemented to enable the public to better engage in elections. CNET covered the Secretary's panel, and excerpts from the article by Stephanie Condon are featured below.

State governments are turning to tools like Twitter to manage elections in order to cut costs and keep up with increasingly Net-savvy citizens.

Both California and Ohio are using more Web tools to communicate with citizens and their own staff during elections, the states' respective secretaries of state said Monday.

Through projects such as the Voting Information Project, states have been moving voter information online, such as voter registration instructions, polling locations, and descriptions of issues and candidates on the ballot. Millions of citizens also turn to state-run sites to track election results.

Now, the state of California is planning to utilize cloud computing for its election night services with the aim of saving money by storing data with external hosting providers, said California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and California Secretary of State Debra Bowen on Monday discussed the use of Web 2.0 tools to manage elections.

Maintaining reliable servers "to have a giant party two or three times a year that lasts four or five hours," is not the best use of the states' resources, Bowen said at the Politics Online Conference here, hosted by the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University and by Campaigns & Elections' Politics Magazine.

That state also intends to use the micro-blogging site Twitter as a means to communicate with its poll workers. Bowen's office currently lacks an effective way to give a quick, direct message to the state's nearly 24,000 precincts, she said.

Such a platform could have been useful during the 2008 presidential primaries, Bowen said, when there was confusion over whether some citizens were eligible to participate in the primaries.

"All it takes is one of our five or six polling workers to have a BlackBerry," she said. "That information (about primary voting eligibility) would have been more than 140 characters, but we could have directed people to a URL with a simple text explanation."

Bowen said she manages her own Twitter and Facebook accounts but redirects complicated questions she receives through constituent services to ensure citizens get complete answers.


It's unlikely, however, that voters will be able to vote online anytime soon, the officials said, given the privacy concerns that would arise. Moreover, creating an online voting system would be "phenomenally expensive," Bowen said, given how complicated it would be.

"We have to know exactly who are you are up to the minute you cast your vote, but we cannot know anything about how you cast your ballot," she said. "We use these voting systems twice every other year, and ... we already have a relatively inexpensive means of voting."

In contrast, there are no privacy concerns associated with using cloud computing to host election night data, Bowen said.
"With election night results, there's nothing that's private," she said. "The question is what is the most efficient, cost-effective way to provide that service."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Secretary of State decertifies Diebold/Premier voting software

Yesterday California Secretary of State Debra Bowen issued this news release announcing she was withdrawing approval of Diebold/Premier voting software version GEMS 1.18.19 after serious security flaws were discovered by Humboldt County. In her release, Secretary of State Bowen said:

“Clearly, a voting system that can delete ballots without warning and doesn’t leave an accurate audit trail should not be used in California or anywhere...I am putting together a comprehensive plan to examine the audit logs of other voting systems to determine if they suffer similar problems. Having a reliable audit log is critical to ensuring that every Californian’s vote is counted as it was cast.”