Wednesday, January 25

subset of women voters: MEN!

Tuesday, I attended "Can We Trust Electronic Voting?", hosted by the Dallas League of Women Voters [LWV] chapter. I was invited by a friend who's in charge of publicity for the group, and was assured that I wouldn't be the only man there! She was right; out of a crowd of ~50, there were 3 men in the audience (not including all 3 of the e-voting experts on the panel*)
* Rafael Anchia; Bruce Sherbet; Doug Jackson
I jokingly asked if the members traded recipes at the end of the meeting, and received a quasi-piercing scowl in return! She did say that the 85-year old organization (formed soon after the 19th Amendment to the US Constition was ratified) has considered adding a tagline "Not for Women Only!"

Surprise, surprise .. this organization is political in nature, and follows a semi-rigid heirarchy. The Dallas Chapter is a member of the Texas Chapter of the LWV, which is a member of the national LWV group (all of which are nonprofit organizations).

At any rate, the forum itself was informative; I learned a lot about the state of electronic voting, and what's keeping it from becoming widely deployed. Here, it's been used for Early Voting (30% of the voters) for several years, but not on Election Day itself when the other 70% come to the polls (then, it's a paper ballot read by Optical Scanners). One of the panelists said they try to chose a technology which will give them 8 or so years of life; e-voting machines are purchased - not leased - from one of the (only) five vendors.

There's a great debate about preferring Open Source software, since there's a perception that a hacker could compromise an e-voting device and change the outcome of an election; there's fear that a Trojan could be inserted by an employee or poll worker (on the end of a bribe chain) and no one would be the wiser. Currently, none of the vendors use Open Source. Given the finite set of companies involved, there's no annual e-voting tradeshow for either hardware or software (they could all fit into a single room at Motel 6).

Naturally (for me!) I was amused by all the spiffy new acronyms I learned:

DRE [Direct Recording Electronic] - electronic voting ("e-voting") machines

EAC [Election Assistance Commission] - established by HAVA to oversee its implementation

ES&S [Election Systems & Software] - name of the company that supplies Texas with electronic voting systems (hardware & software)

HAVA [Help America Vote Act] - federal legislation passed in 2002 mandating States to establish uniform voting systems and standards

NIST [National Institute of Standards & Technology] - EAC is collaborating with NIST to develop standards and guidelines related to voting technology

PEB [Personal Electronic Ballot] - device used by ES&S to personalize a touchscreen

SARA [Secure, Accurate, Recountable, and Accessible] - the National League's criteria for voting systems and procedures

SOS [Secretary of State] - agency responsible for conducting elections

VRA [Voting Rights Act] - federal legislation initially passed in 1965 to achieve the promise of political equality and fair representation for all citizens

VVPT [Voter Verified Paper Trail] - independent paper ballot for voter to confirm the vote they cast

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