Joe Six-Pack and D&D...

elections, certification/testing, reform, standards, news, privacy, berkeley, research, policy, iSchool

Daniel Macht of Sacramento's Capitol Weekly interviewed me for a story published today ("When Dungeons & Dragons meets California elections ") talking about the work of the CA SoS's working group on Post-Election Audit Standards.

The editor who wrote the headline seemed to want to push the "Joe Six-Pack" and "Dungeons and Dragons" angle, which is too bad... those are great, sexy and light-hearted items but are better used as instructional analogies rather than placeholders for reality.

I excerpt some pieces of the story below. I don't feel I was misquoted (as we all so often are)... but I have to say a few things. First, I think this is an area where it is of utmost importance that election officials and academics work together to find a practical and effective way forward. Second, I didn't ever endorse the Holt audit prescription for California. I said that California needs to be thinking about moving in a direction similar to that one; where there is some margin-dependent audit, some decent-sized fixed percentage audit and predictable audit percentages for election officials.

When Dungeons & Dragons meets California elections

By Daniel Macht

If Florida 2000 was the year of pregnant and hanging chads, California 2008 could be known as the year Joe Six-Pack meets a 10-sided die--a la Dungeons & Dragons, the fantasy role-playing game. The idea is that rolling dice is an easy and efficient way to prove to citizens that precincts chosen for post-election audits are truly random. [...]

Academics, voting advocates and statisticians argue, though, that 1 percent is too small a sample in close races for voters to be confident their will is being carried out. "The closer the election gets, the harder it is to detect bad things that can happen that could make a difference in an election," said Joe Hall, a Ph.D. candidate from UC Berkeley who spoke before the working group two weeks ago. "The amount of precincts that could flip the outcome of a race becomes small quickly," Hall said. Hall advocates a system for California based on what proposed federal legislation offers. The bill, HR 811, would require a tiered percentage of manual audits based on the closeness of federal races. If the margin is less than 1 percent, 10 percent of precincts should be audited, Hall said.

Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, and a member of the working group, said an increased audit sample will help voters have more faith in the system. She points to a statewide survey her organization conducted of eligible but non-registered voters, which found that nearly one in four felt their votes wouldn't be counted accurately, so why bother.

Hall acknowledged any increase in audit sample size would have a big impact on large counties. Still, small procedures--like using a 10-sided die to choose random precincts to audit, instead of randomly generated computer codes--also would help ensure voters' faith in the integrity of the process. "If I'm Joe Six-Pack, all I see is someone hitting return on a computer and a bunch of numbers come up. ? There's no way for me to verify that it came from a random process," Hall said. [...]

EVT papers available...

elections, hacks, news, friends, research, policy, usability, legal

The accepted papers for the USENIX/ACCURATE Electronic Voting Technology 2007 (EVT'07) workshop are now available (for registered attendees):

http://www.usenix.org/events/evt07/tech/tech.html

There is some really slick research in there!

How fragile we are...

hacks, chilling effects, family

My beloved Dad... doing a Dick Cheney snear It's been a rough summer... Peter, my grandfather and one uncle have each succumbed to cancer of one sort or another. Then, my father's crappy mitral valve, which had already been replaced once, decided to throw in the towel. (That's my Pa, at right.)

Dad underwent open heart surgery for mitral valve replacement (MVR) yesterday. He had a St. Jude Valve put in (which is nice because it only permits blood flow in one direction). Open heart surgery is an amazing thing... once one understands what it involves, one quickly becomes amazed that we can do any of this stuff without killing a person.

In short, they put the patient under general anesthesia and saw open the sternum so they can have access to the heart. That sounds wild, but the really wild part is how they operate on the heart itself. Naturally, a surgeon can't operate invasively on a beating heart full of blood... so they re-route the blood flow (via cardiopulmonary bypass) and then stop the heart and inject a very cold preservative (via cardioplegia) into the heart. In this manner, they can operate on the heart for many hours. It sounds crazy, I know... but, considering that the perioperative mortality rate for MVR with a St. Jude's valve was only 6% in 1983, his odds were significantly better than 1 in 17.

My Dad just called me, the day after this procedure... they've moved him out of ICU. He says it feels like he got hit by a truck with a very large blade on the front of it.

Here's to staying healthy. In this vein (yuk yuk), I'm going to pledge to loose a few pounds and eat healthier (less animal protein).

Testimony on Post-Election Audits

elections, reform, standards, friends, research, policy, legal

I gave testimony in front of the CA SoS's Post-Election Audit Standards working group this past Monday. Here is a copy of the agenda and here is a copy of my slides. I apologize especially to the other speakers for having to leave so quickly; the Top-to-Bottom review is a harsh mistress. (The webcast should be posted on the SoS's website at some point.)

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