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‘Electronic voting’ Category

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Forecast: Cloudy With A Chance Of Low Turnout

Empty Polling Place Photo

In today’s New York Times John Harwood asks a question about tomorrow’s midterm primary elections, “Angry Voters, But How Many?”, which got our attention. He highlights the fact that not only was turnout for Barack Obama’s historic 2008 election underwhelming, but that it’s probably not going to get much better than that this time around.

In 2008, when Mr. Obama’s candidacy galvanized Democrats and intrigued the nation, nearly 4 in 10 Americans declined to vote. Even at peak interest, the American appetite for democratic rituals is hardly universal.

Without a presidential race to lead the ballot, the appetite is even weaker. The last time more than half of the eligible citizens voted in a midterm election was nearly three decades ago, in 1982, census figures show.

Students of modern political history point out that this is often a problem for Democrats. Their less-affluent constituency traditionally goes to the polls at lower rates.

“We usually do well when the turnout is low,” said John Morgan, a longtime Republican demographic specialist.

Comparing 2010 to one election with modest turnout in which his party captured both houses of Congress, Mr. Morgan observed, “This smells like 1946.”

Elections with low turnout can allow parties to tilt the outcome substantially through small shifts in the composition of those voting.

In the 1994 midterms, for example, overall turnout as a proportion of eligible citizens dropped slightly. But since Representative Newt Gingrich’s party was energized that year and President Bill Clinton’s was downcast, the result earned the moniker “Republican Revolution.”

“You can have a big-wave result,” Mr. Cook said, “without a big wave of voters.”

We’ll be monitoring tomorrow’s vote here. If you’re curious why we’re voting on Tuesday, the answer is here.

Photo of empty polling place via nonnormalizable on Flickr.

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Kapor: “Disruptive Innovation” Could Fix U.S. Voting

OSDV Panel

“Disruptive innovation” is what we need to fix America’s broken voting system, Mitch Kapor, the election reformer and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Lotus 1-2-3, said on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

Kapor made his remarks at an event sponsored by the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation (OSDV) at the home of Hollywood film producer Lawrence Bender. The event was intended to introduce the Hollywood audience to the OSDV’s Trust the Vote project and its mission, to “re-invent how America votes in a digital democracy.”

Kapor was joined on a panel by Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan and friends of Why Tuesday? OSDF co-founder Gregory Miller, Heather Smith from Rock the Vote and CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Kim Zetter covered the event for Wired Magazine, and said that the main piece of news to come from the event was that the OSDV’s open-source voting code, the type of “disruptive innovation” Kapor was talking about, is now ready for a transparent public review. (more…)

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Diebold, Ditching Voting Machines, Sticks With ATMs


If you’ve ever used an ATM, chances are you’ve used a Diebold. If that name sounds familiar to you, you may remember that in April of 2008, I interviewed Ed Felten via Skype, the Princeton professor who was able to hack a Diebold voting machine, one of their other ventures. The AP reported last week that Diebold is selling it’s voting machine unit for millions of dollars to Election Systems & Software, giving them a pretty firm hold on the voting machine market in the US.

Diebold, based in North Canton, announced the sale of its Allen, Texas-based subsidiary Premier Election Solutions Inc. on Thursday and said it will get $5 million plus payments representing 70 percent of collections of the unit’s accounts receivable as of Aug. 31.

Diebold said it would disclose the additional payments at a later date.

Diebold expects to recognize a pretax loss on the deal in the range of $45 million to $55 million.


Candice Hoke, an election law professor at Cleveland State University, said the sale raises questions about the consolidation of election services. “It’s a massive consolidation of voting-system vendors,” she said.

The increased size and influence of ES&S could make it harder for smaller, innovative companies to enter the market, she said. “The market power (of ES&S) will be so significant,” she said.

At the same time, Hoke said, ES&S’s growth could allow it to spend more on research to develop better voting machines.

We’ve followed closely stories about voting machines here. For the whole bunch of them, check out our electronic voting archive.

Photo of Diebold ATM via jeffwilcox on Flickr.

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

NYT Rips Voting Machine Bill


An election reform bill (S. 3212) sponsored by Democratic California Senator Dianne Feinsten and Republican Senator Robert Bennett of Utah was panned by the New York Times this morning in an editorial. The Times says election reform is indeed necessary, but not in the form put forth in this bill. Here’s a quick look at the Times’ POV:

Voters cannot trust the totals reported by electronic voting machines; they are too prone to glitches and too easy to hack. In the last few years, concerned citizens have persuaded states to pass bills requiring electronic voting machines to use paper ballots or produce voter-verifiable paper records of every vote. More than half of the states now have such laws.

There is still a need for a federal law, so voting is reliable in every state. A good law would require that every vote in a federal election produce a voter-verifiable paper record, and it would mandate that the paper records be the official ballots. It would impose careful standards for how these paper ballots must be “audited,” to verify that the tallies on the electronic machines are correct.

For the complete editorial, click here.

BLAST FROM THE PAST: As we constantly mention here, election reform shouldn’t just be about looking at the ways we vote, but the day we vote as well. In 2006, we caught up with Senator Feinstein in California to talk to her about why we vote on Tuesday. Do you know why? To see whether Senator Feinstein knew the answer (most members of congress don’t know) check out this video. If you don’t know the answer, you can find it right here.

ABOUT US: If you’re new here, we invite you to learn more about our nonpartisan mission at Why Tuesday? including who we are and what we do.

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

LinuxWorld Test Run For Open Source Voting

Next week in San Francisco a voting machine that runs on open source software and was designed by the Open Voting Consortium, a nonprofit with the stated goal of moving towards “trustable and open voting systems,” will be put to use at LinuxWorld, where they will be holding a mock election. Apparently 100,000 people are expected to participate. Here are some of the details from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The LinuxWorld conference is held every year in San Francisco to discuss open-source software – software whose code is designed and maintained by volunteers. The conference takes its name from Linux, computer operating system designed by Linus Torvalds in the 1990s that has a passionate following. It competes against Microsoft Windows and has spawned software for numerous devices, including voting machines.

Open-source software is free for anyone to use, although licensing restrictions apply – changes to the code, for example, usually need to be given back to the community. The code that runs this voting machine is based on the work of a former Berkeley student, Ka-Ping Yee, who now works at Google.

At a price of about $400, the new voting machine is a tenth of the cost of proprietary machines – less if made in quantity, Dechert said – because it’s simply designed and based on free software. Its workings are transparent, he said, unlike some of the electronic voting machines that California decertified for security problems.

People who attend the conference will vote by scanning a bar code on their badges, then selecting a candidate from a computer screen. When they’re done, they will print their ballots, which will include their bar codes. A separate machine can scan the bar codes and read their votes back to them if they choose.

Votes can be audited in several ways – by manually counting the ballots, scanning the bar codes, or processing pictures of the ballots to see if the text on each ballot matches its bar code.

The article goes on to say that this particular could be certified and ready to roll in real (not mock) elections by 2010. I’m down in Los Angeles now and will be next week, and might try and make it up for LinuxWorld if I have the time. This sounds pretty cool.

Click here for a look at our past coverage of electronic voting, including an interview with a Princeton professor, the Mayor of Philly and more.

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008


This morning I went to The Grove in Los Angeles where HBO, promoting their new film RECOUNT, set up the actual Votomatic Florida voting machines used in the controversial 2000 Presidential Election, complete with butterfly ballots and hanging chads, so that people can judge for themselves whether they could have effectively cast their ballot. RECOUNT premieres May 25 on HBO.

About Us

Why Tuesday? is a non-partisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2005 to find solutions to increase voter turnout and participation in elections... More

The Answer

In 1845, before Florida, California, and Texas were states or slavery had been abolished, Congress needed to pick a time for Americans to vote... More

Recent Comments

Patrick, France is a post-Christian secular country. Relatively few of them attend church, and voting on Sunday does not interfere with their religious practices, because most of the population is not religious...

Posted by John on blog post Why Do We Vote On Tuesday?

In France they last voted on a Sunday. France is despite the Bourbon legacy a largely Catholic country, yet they vote on Sunday...

Posted by Patrick on blog post Why Do We Vote On Tuesday?

I think weekend voting would make the most sense, as people wouldn't have tu run home after work or wake up early to hit the polling stations beforehand.

Posted by Zander on blog post Why Do We Vote On Tuesday?