Care for your absentee ballot...

elections, accessibility, news, privacy, politics, berkeley, San Francisco, policy, education

Absentee voters should consider not sending their ballots back via postal mail.

First, you'll save a stamp. Second, lots can happen -- spoiling, subversion, misplacement, etc. -- to your ballot between when you place it in the mail and when it arrives at the Registrar of Voters. (If you do use postal mail, be sure to take it to a post office or, at a minimum, place it in a blue post office mailbox.)

The alternative is to seal and sign your ballot, keep it safe until November 8 and then take it in to any polling place (in Alameda county). This way, you won't have to wait in line at the polling place, you won't have to use the Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machines (which lack a paper trail) and you will have the peace of mind that the official record of your vote was cast on an indelible, physical medium (paper) instead of resident in (not-so-permanent) electronic memory and that you yourself were able to deposit it into a ballot box.

(In the longer term, Alameda County and San Francisco are moving to hybrid systems where most voters vote in the polling place using paper ballots and disabled and/or non-English voters use computerized systems with a paper trail.)

GAO e-voting report

system, elections, certification/testing, accessibility, reform, vendors, standards, news, open source, problems, research, policy, usability, legal

The GAO has finally released it's report on e-voting: http://reform.house.gov/UploadedFiles/GAO-05-956.pdf

Here's the first paragraph from the "What GAO found" section:

While electronic voting systems hold promise for improving the election process, numerous entities have raised concerns about their security and reliability, citing instances of weak security controls, system design flaws, inadequate system version control, inadequate security testing, incorrect system configuration, poor security management, and vague or incomplete voting system standards (see below for examples). It is important to note that many of these concerns were based on specific system makes and models or a specific jurisdiction?s election, and there is no consensus among election officials and other experts on their pervasiveness. Nevertheless, some have caused problems in elections and therefore merit attention.

And here's some reaction:

I'll try to post my own thoughts here later after reading the report.

Berkeley Information Technology Review Committee

system, SIMS, berkeley, policy, education

I have just been chosen as the graduate student representative to the Berkeley Information Technology Review Committee. (I've spent the past year on the eBerkeley Steering Committee and the previous two years on the eBerkeley Educational Technology Committee.)

The new committees charge and (quite impressive) membership is described below the fold.

UPDATE [2005-10-20 14:28:08]: After a few email comments, I should note that this is an opportunity for students to have a direct say in how decisions are made about information technology at UC Berkeley. This committee will shadow the next ten or so years of tech. decisions on campus. I'd like to see those decision made well and to enable seamless, world-class research, education and administration.

Full story »

"History of Voting Systems in California" by Ed Arnold

elections, certification/testing, standards, copyright, research, policy

Courtesy of Kim Alexander of the CVF, I have obtained a copy of History of Voting Systems in California (3.4MB PDF) by Ed Arnold.

This document is from the California Secretary of State from the Bill Jones era -- around 1999 -- and is in the public domain but difficult to come by.

Here's the introduction by Bill Jones:

This publication, "History of Voting systems in California", was produced under the direction of Edward G. Arnold, who worked in the Elections Division of the Secretary of State's Office for 27 years. His retirement in January of 1999 coincides with the publication of this book, and nicely "bookends" Ed's career in our office. During his time here he was one of the foremost experts in the country on voting machines and equipment. This publication is, in a sense, a gift from Ed to all Californians, representing as it does the only such history of voting systems and equipment used in California election. This publication contains factual information, research, and many personal observations and opinions of the author, and should be read as such. As technology changes in the world at large, so will it change in the process of voting, and a portion of Ed's legacy to us will be this historical document to remind us, as we move forward, where we have been and how we used to do things.

UPDATE [2005-10-21 16:01:11]: The link to the PDF was broken... it's now fixed.

UPDATE [2006-08-04 17:06:03]: I've OCR'd the text so that the PDF is now searchable.

Prefacing lines in emacs...

hacks, SIMS, berkeley, education

So, I wanted a way to insert the string PROMPT in front of every line in a region of a text file. (This is for an SQL script for Ray's DB Mgmt. class.).

Here's how to do it in emacs:

  1. Highlight the region that you want to preface each line of (hit Ctrl-spacebar and then arrow down or up to highlight).
  2. Hit M-x replace-regexp (on my mac, that's actually Ctrl-[ x replace-regexp).
  3. Enter the following regular expression (regexp, for short):

    ^\(.*\)$
    

    (the ^ is the marker for the beginning of the line, the \( and \) are escaped parentheses, the .* is regexp-speak for "any character, many or no times" and the $ is the marker for the end of the line.)

  4. Hit return.
  5. Now, what to replace it with? I chose

    PROMPT \1
    

    (PROMPT is what I wanted to preface each line with and \1 says to take the stuff found between the parentheses in the regexp and put it there.)

  6. Hit return.

For more on emacs replace-regexp type M-x describe-function replace-regexp.

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