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Monday, December 13, 2004

improving US elections

Kim Alexander of the California Voter Foundation gave a talk "The Need for Transparent, Accountable and Verifiable U.S. Elections" on Dec. 9, 2004

Prior to 2000, few people ever bothered to look at the mechanics of voting. Elections were like the sausage factory—people wanted to enjoy the end product without thinking too much about what went into making it.

The 2000 Presidential election vote counting fiasco in Florida brought a huge dose of sunlight and scrutiny into the nuts and bolts of our voting and vote counting processes. Basically lots of people started looking under the rock and we are finding that oversight and security of our voting systems is miserably inadequate. We’ve also learned that election security is incredibly complex. There are thousands of voting jurisdictions in the United States, all with their own systems and procedures.

The loss of transparency has been underway in this country for 40 years, ever since punch card voting was introduced. In most places, the software that is used to tabulate the vote is not verified. This is propriety software, made by private companies, which is being managed by thousands of people with limited computer skills. This software is not required by federal law to meet any security, accuracy or reliability standard. It is unregulated by the federal government and in most states, is poorly regulated.

The presentation was for the National Academies Framework for Understanding Electronic Voting project. They received a number of interesting papers.

Thanks to Glen Newton for pointing this talk out.
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