Thursday, January 24, 2008

My cool Mom

My Mom leads the Israeli dance group in Nashville, TN, where I grew up. They dance at Vanderbilt where she is Professor of Mechanical Engineering. They recently produced a short video about the group, which is narrated by my Mom who also stars in it with her dance group. Check it out.

Monday, January 21, 2008

ACCURATE annual report available

ACCURATE is A Center for Correct, Usable, Reliable, Auditable, and Transparent Elections. We are funded by the National Science Foundation, and I am the center director. Our 2007 annual report is now available here. It highlghts the Center’s major accomplishments and activities in 2007. This coming election year promises to be our most interesting and productive, as members of ACCURATE engage in all aspects of the election, as well as in researching technologies for improving future elections.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

2008 Election Judge Training

I attended my Maryland election judge training session today. It was a 3 hours class for returning judges. There was really nothing new for me. I've already worked 4 elections using the Diebold Accuvote machines, and we will be using them again this year. I did, however, notice a change in the tone of the class.

Right up front, the instructor told us that the three most important factors for us to consider are "Security, Integrity, and Accuracy". These three things were stressed throughout the day. The instructor talked about the 20/20 segment where a hacker was able to change tallies on the machine (I think it was Harri Hursti), and told us of a new tamper tape that was placed on the corner of the machine where there is a screw for opening up the casing. As before, I had a good look at this tamper tape and determined that it would be extremely difficult to tell if the tape had been voided or not. I think these tamper tapes are emperor's clothes designed to make administrators feel good. One of the trainers referred to it as the "Lou Dobbs seal", in reference to Lou Dobbs' coverage of e-voting problems leading up to the 2006 election.

We spent more time training on the poll books than I had in previous elections. These are those machines that failed miserably in the 2006 primary. The instructor told us that the books would not work properly if they were turned on at the same time, so each poll book had to be turned on and enabled before the next one. I remember hearing this as one of the explanations of why so many stations failed in 2006. I hope that she is mistaken, and that the machines will still work even if powered up in arbitrary order. Otherwise, Maryland will have problems again in 2008, because I'm certain that not all judges will remember to follow these instructions. The poll books have a new feature this year that the instructor was very proud of. The chief judges can reverse a voter's check-in and reissue them a voter authority card. This feature is a bit scary, although I can see how it would be useful under certain circumstances. This is enabled via a 4 digit PIN that is supposed to be known only to the chief judges.

It struck me as ironic that we were required to fill out a survey about our experience as a judge, as well as an evaluation of our instructors. We were given the surveys on paper, with round ovals to fill in so that the survey and evaluation results could be optically scanned and tabulated. It struck me that the survey and evaluation of our election judge training was more auditable, secure, reliable and transparent than the machines that will be used in the actual election.

I hope that when I train for the 2010 election in Maryland, that we will be working on how to collect paper ballots, to avoid residual votes, and to work with precinct count scanners of paper ballots. If the state does not fund this change, then the measure to move to paper ballots that passed in the legislature last year and was signed by the governor will be thrown out.

Here are some pictures that I took at training today.