Tag - voting

Voting Assumptions Gone Awry
New, Flawed Voting Machines in NY
Back to Voting Today
Twitter Vote Report Wrap-Up
Election Day Is Here – Let's Tweet!
Twitter Vote Report in the News
Twitter Vote Report in Action
Dems Voting Via the Internet

Voting Assumptions Gone Awry

I have been advocating for making voting easier and more convenient for a long time. Give us more options of when and how to vote and, presumably, more people will vote. Two mechanisms for doing this have been the vote-by-mail (not male!) and early voting.

And yet, both of these mechanisms have just proven to have enormous drawbacks. Here is how:

Vote by Mail

The Barbara Lee Family Foundation in Boston has been doing fantastic research on gender and politics. Their findings from the 2016 election included the fact that husbands/partners influence the voting of wives/partners. Of all of the things women have to wrestle with to make their households work, the one they often don’t want to fight about is politics. Traditionally, this left open the option for women to vote their conscience in the privacy of the voting booth. However, vote by mail generally happens around the kitchen table as a family, which cancels out the option of voting differently from men for many women.

Early Voting

Well, we recently witnessed the worst case scenario for early voting – Montana. Over 250,000 people had already voted by the time Greg Gianforte was charged with assault for throwing a reporter to the ground. Of course, it’s impossible to know how many voters would have changed their minds and votes had they voted in person, but it seems reasonable to assume that at least some people regretted their vote.

Our mechanisms and practices for voting are a mess right now. Where new technology is being used it has been outsourced to private companies with proprietary technology, rather than open, public systems. And, of course, voter registration and participation is under assault by Republicans.

I remain in firmly in favor of online voting (the advent of bloc chain technology since I wrote this essay in 2008 makes online voting even more possible as both secure and distributed.) Someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, we will have the political and public will to build the best, more secure, private and efficient voting system int he world. Someday…



New, Flawed Voting Machines in NY

At last, at last, ten years after the rest of the country began using new voting machines, New York state has entered the 21st century. Yesterday’s primary election was the first one using optical scan voting machines. Of the existing methods and machines, this is the best one as it combines both a physical ballot and mechanical scanning to avoid miscounts and election chicanery.

Of course, things didn’t go smoothly yesterday morning in lots of voting places – this is New York State, after all, where patronage still rules. But none of these contretemps, that really amount to a lack of training and preparation, are important in the long run.

What is important is that there are two major drawbacks to this system. The first is that the company, Election Systems and Software (one of only two in the country currently making voting machines, got the keys to the castle in their multimillion dollar contract with New York State. The company uses proprietary software in their machines. They are a for profit entity, after all, and the software is their commerce. But it’s not the state’s commerce, and by allowing a company to control the software, rather than make it open and open source, the state is at the mercy of the company’s process.  Open, verifiable software should be a cornerstone of any voting machinery.

The second is the process of filling out the ballot itself. I first noted the discomfort I felt watching a voter mark her ballot at a fairly open table, walk it across the room and work with an election official to feed it into the scanner in 2007 while visiting San Francisco during the primary election there. It was uncomfortable to watch the election official, with good intentions, probably, help voters there handle their ballots. And it was uncomfortable doing the same yesterday. I did not hand my ballot to the election worker, however, she clearly saw my vote. If I was inclined to make a radical or unpopular choice, it would certainly be tempered by this process. I find this lack of a true, secret ballot appalling.

I have long held that Internet voting is inevitable. We have a crisis in finding and training poll workers, and even I, an ardent voter, forgot that it was primary day until 6 pm.   Wouldn’t it be great to get an email reminder of an election, be able to surf the web while voting to learn more about the candidates (ha, they’d probably hate that!) quickly, conveniently from your laptop or iPad or at the library? We’ll get there, slowly, inevitably, ungracefully.


Back to Voting Today

Took a quick break from the GiveList today to attend the Pew Center on Voting’s conference called Voting in America- The Road Ahead.

There was a really terrific lunchtime panel moderated by Pam Fessler of NPR with six state election officials and directors:  Robin Carnahan, Missouri, Trey Grayson, Kentucky, John Lindback, Oregon, Chris Thomas, Michigan, Brian Newby, Kansas and Warren Slocum of Mateo County, CA.

The most fun was hearing Lindback, who has been the leading administrator for that state’s conversation to all mail-in voting, ask, “Why do we keep doing what we have done?”  This was in the context of a discussion about voting registration.  Lindback fearlessly suggested that we should all have a number assigned to us when we are born as part of our birth certificate that has three purposes only:  for use as part of the census, for voting and to certify your death.  This idea was met with a surprisingly positively reaction from the crowd of mainly state election officials — and a cheer from me, of course!

There was a great deal of discussion of the need to unify voting procedures without federalizing them . Meaning getting all of the counties and all of their states to agree on a set method of voting – a Herculean task, but one worth undertaking.


Twitter Vote Report Wrap-Up

Wow, what a ride!  Dozens of volunteers contributing untold hours of their expertise and passion to bring an idea to life in less than a month.  We had nearly 300 news stories filed about the project the past week alone, many, many blog posts about it and thousands of tweeters using the system on Election Day.

The day wasn’t without its problems as the system went down for about a half an hour in the morning and the afternoon.  That was to be expected as we were building it at the same time we were rolling it out! The tech folks, particularly Deanna Zandt, Dave Troy and Andrew Turner were magnificent, calmer than I would have been and resilient throughout the day.

We’re still compiling the final statistics, so here are my impressions of the highlights of the day.

Just as importantly as serving as a vehicle for reporting problems, Twitter Vote Report was a wonderful way for citzens to celebrate voting.  There was a steady stream of tweets throughout the day of people celebrating their votes, like this one: “MeanRachel: #votereport #6th and Lamar – people laughing waiting for cross walk eating free ben and jerrys. Is this what hope looks like? Yes.”

Twitters informed one another:  “LisaS: line shorter now-stl 17th ward pct 5 voters, come on down! #votereport  less than a minute ago in Saint Louis, MO, USA  via Twitter 8:15 am”

And, of course, they reported problems, mainly long waits:  “geosteph: retweet neighbors who voted this morning said there was a long line at 6:10 AM …50 minutes before polls opened in MD #votereport”

Several messages were quite memorable both for the shocking disregard of voting rules, even common sense, by election officials, and the sincere desire of individual voters to try to make a difference by sending a message about it.

A St. Louis voter tweeted in the morning, during the course of what were five hour waits in some parts of St. Louis, this message, “In STL, poll workers shortstaffed, coming outside and asking random
people if anyone can help!  Poll workers require training. #votereport”  This bizarre request for untrained poll workers was included in an NPR roundup of Election Day troubles.

A woman sent in this audio file from her iphone (very cool!) reporting that she had been charged $20 to vote in Indiana.  I thought the poll tax was long gone, but apparently not.

It’s hard to express how appreciative I am of all of the people who invested themselves in this project; the tech folks, in particular, immersed themselves in building an extraordinary suite of tools that can be used for future campaigns and events, like natural disasters, when communications infrastructure between citizens becomes critically important.  We’re just at the beginning of what will be an ongoing, interesting evolution in the ways that mobile technology can be used to engage and connect citizens and I am very thankful that the Twitter Vote Report project could make an important contribution in that journey.


Election Day Is Here – Let's Tweet!

What an amazing effort in the last few days from our volunteer programmers.  I can’t name them all, but you should take a peek at the list of contributors here on the Twitter Vote Report site. Already tweets are flying in this morning, here’s one from an early bird in Virginia:

#votereport #22033 currently 0520, polls open 0600, no more than 2 dozen people in front of us, more arriving as we wait. #good 18 minutes ago in Fairfax, VA 22033, USA via Twitter

Just yesterday we added an awesome list of longest wait times by zip code on the home page courtesy of Plodt.

State level maps, here is Missouri

The Google and Android apps are up and running

And Nathan Freitas yesterday grabbed the Twitter data stream and ran with it creating this a very cool way of displaying the data!

Already very long lines in Virginia this morning (but great weather expected in most of the country) sure hope folks brought folding chairs and are willing to wait hours because nothing is more important than voting today.

So, to my teammates, thanks for this great journey, and to the voters, thanks for your perseverance and resilience navigating a ridiculously difficult voting system — I’ll wait until later in the week to pontificate on how it needs to be fixed!


Twitter Vote Report in the News

Twitter Vote Report has caught fire with the mainstream media and the blogosphere.  Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • An awesome video on Current TV:  http://current.com/contentItem.htm?masterId=85333400
  • Andy Carvin, one of our gang who has helped to design and implement this effort, was interviewed on Weekend Edition on NPR.
  • Noel Hidalgo created a terrific video that’s up on YouTube now:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUMXuTM_KLs
  • Watching Democracy at Work, One Vote at a Time, Richard Waters, Financial Times’ FT Tech Blog, November 1, 2008
  • Protecting Your Vote Using Net Technolgies, Craig Newmark, October 31, 2008

Nancy Scola is doing an amazing job of capturing all of this on the press page at www.twittervotereport.com.


Twitter Vote Report in Action

“So, what’s all this about?”  Some folks have been asking me that question in the past few weeks when I’ve told them about Twitter Vote Report. As of yesterday when the site went up, I can point to it and see, this is what it’s all about:

  • “#votereport yesterday in #NC #28269 2.5 hr wait at library #early”
  • “#votereport #early #89501 Downtown Reno Libarary 1 minute wait time”
  • “#votereport #02128 #bad #reg I have not received my mail-in registration confirmation, and the MA phone number has been busy for a week!”
  • “#votereport #60657 the electronic voting machines were awesome. showed you a paper receipt before finally casting your ballot.”
  • “#votereport! I voted #early today in Arlington VA (#22201). Exp. was #good; #wait:30 min. I arrived at 8AM.”
  • “My #early #votereport – absentee ballots in #48823 require extra postage. Don’t let a $0.15 slipup keep your voice from being heard!”

My favorite is the postage situation in North Carolina. I’ve asked my friend Cheryl Graeve, head of field operations at the National League of Women Voters to check that one out!


Dems Voting Via the Internet

I love the PoliTicker, the weekly newswire of Politics Online because it always has delicious tidbits that I’ve missed like this one, “Dems Hold 1st Global Online Primary”.

For the first time, Democrats living overseas can vote in a primary for president being held from February 5-12. According to this article, voters will have the choice of voting online, by mail or at polling places in 100 countries. Voters log into the system created by Everyone Counts, Inc. in San Diego, receive a unique identifying number and then vote.

So, rest of the election world, and I mean you, Secretaries of States, Election Assistance Commission, voting reformers, PAY ATTENTION!  The future of American democracy is right here in front of us, I just hope I don’t have to move to Estonia to practice it!


Copyright © 2018 Allison Fine