Ballot pseudo-secrecy

elections, reform, standards, secrecy, privacy

Link: http://www.dca.gov.uk/elections/ge2001/procedures/02.htm#poll

One of the things that makes elections so difficult - besides the ridiculousness here in the U.S. of voting on all local, state and federal elections on the same ballot - is the requirement of absolute ballot secrecy.

Doug Jones, in his October 2004 CACM piece, Auditing Elections, points out that the UK does things differently. In the UK, there is, what I call, ballot pseudo-secrecy instead of absolute secrecy ("Procedures at a General Election"):

11.16 The system used to issue ballot papers was introduced in the Secret Ballot Act 1872. Each ballot paper has a number on the back (the front has names and details of candidates as shown in statement of persons nominated) and a corresponding number on the counterfoil. Acting returning officers arrange for ballot papers to be printed locally.

11.17 When the voter presents himself or herself at the polling station, the presiding officer checks that the name is on the register, marks it off and tears off the ballot paper. The polling clerk writes the voter's electoral number on the counterfoil. A perforation (the "official mark") which identifies the polling station is made on the ballot paper and the polling clerk gives it to the voter, who makes a mark on it in the polling booth. If the official mark is not present on the ballot paper when the ballot papers are counted, that ballot paper will be regarded as invalid and not counted.

11.18 This procedure ensures that only an elector whose name is on the register votes, and that he or she only votes once. The numbering is necessary so that the presiding officer can account for the number of ballot papers with which they were issued at the beginning of the poll.

Paper ballots are numbered and each number is recorded in a register. As we've shown before (PDF), this kind of thing can violate ballot secrecy and introduce undue influence on voting (coercion, vote-buying, etc.). However, the register is kept and treated as a state secret and primarily used to ensure that all ballots are accounted for - or don't end up in the final tally.

I think that relaxing the requirement for absolute ballot secrecy may be a wise step in the U.S. The machines we use have been shown to work well at times, and to really screw up at other times - with some problems being recoverable and other ones not. If we could use pseudonymous unique identifiers to track votes during the various levels of the canvass, we could approach the end-to-end auditability Doug Jones speaks of.

The trick is that the unique identifier need be unknown to the voter and the "register" that links individuals to unique ID numbers must be kept highly secret.

A Picture Worth 1000 PhDs

SIMS, berkeley, photos

Link: http://dream.sims.berkeley.edu/~jhall/nqb2/media/phds.jpg

a picture of 13 of about 16 SIMS (www.sims.berkeley.edu) PhD students

14/19ths of The SIMS PhD Crew

Clockwise from bottom left: Dave Thaw, David Warthen, Nathan Good, Yuri Takhteyev, danah boyd, Rachna Damija, Mahad Ibrahim, Dilan Mahendran, Charis Kaskiris, Jens Grossklags, Vivien Petras, Andrew Fiore, Paul Laskowski and Joseph Lorenzo Hall (me) taking the picture.

Not pictured: Michal Feldman, Hailing Jiang, Allan Konrad, Barbara Rosario, Fredrik Wallenberg.

That's a sizeable chunk of the SIMS PhD contingent. Each and every one of them is particularly adept in imsology. Together, we form a powerful force.

Right Polling Place, Wrong Table, No Vote

elections, accessibility, reform, standards, news, wtf?, politics, problems

Link: http://equalvote.blogspot.com/2004_11_01_equalvote_archive.html#110096698381079217

(from Dan)

The Stark County Board of Elections has rejected over 500 provisional ballots in Stark County, according to this story in the Canton Repository. Some of them were reportedly cast by voters who appeared at the right polling place, but went to the wrong table and therefore voted in the wrong precinct.

This is really unfortunate. Imagine going to the same polling place you've used for years, and casting a valid vote that is not counted because you went to the wrong table ("Board rejects more than 500 provisional ballots"). WTF? Nobody put up any signs? Why wasn't any information included in the poll worker documentation and/or training (for split-precinct polling places) that recommended having the voter try to find their name on one of the adjacent precinct's voter rolls; literally, one table over?

The Grey Video...

music, copyright, chilling effects

Link: http://www.greyvideo.com/

(via Donna via Cory)

Man o' man... get the Grey Video before it's sued out of existence... here are direct links to the files in MOV:

UPDATE [2004-11-19 11:04:07]: The site has gone down for unknown reasons (via Cory). Fortunately, there are mirrors and a Torrent file for those who have not yet seen this video:

The official site is down, likely a result of popularity or legality, and I don't know if it's coming back. Until then, I'm going to mirror the high-quality Quicktime version.

Download: grey_video.mov (Quicktime, 22 MB)

BitTorrent: grey.torrent (thanks, Kyle!)

Also, Matt Haughey is mirroring it.

Imsology

SIMS, berkeley
SIMS - 1st "S" + ology = Imsology.

Geoff Nunberg, co-prof. in my QofI class, used this term today in his lecture and I can only imagine that it means "the study of information management and systems".

I like it. I guess I'm an imsologist.

Here at SIMS, we've been struggling with having such a diverse body of interests under one roof... when people ask us, "What is SIMS?" the best we can do is point to Anno's description of SIMS' mission. When someone asks me, "What do you study?" it's very hard to answer without boring them to death with a paragraph.

I will now say I'm an imsologist studying imsology. Word.

UPDATE [2004-11-21 10:19:02]: As Doug noted, I screwed up the link above for "Anno's description of SIMS' mission"... however, I did it in such an interesting, braindead blogger sort of way. Check it out... the link I pointed to was:

http://sims/about/mission.html

Why, that's not even a valid URL, you say? No, it doesn't appear to be. If I load this in Firefox, it's interpreted as an "I'm feeling lucky" (IFL) search on Google and it goes to the EA SIMS site:

http://thesims.ea.com/

Other browsers do other things with this URL. Safari just displays an error that it can't find the 'sims' server. Internet Explorer seems to redirect me to:

http://sims.net/errors/errorclick.html

So how did I come to enter such a goofy, inconsistent URL into my post? I suppose, being on the local SIMS network, entering http://sims/ goes to our root webserver, http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/ .

I had thought that the great thing about the imsology meme was that it wouldn't be confused with the overloading of the SIMS brand. Oh well.

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