Crowdsourcing Election Verification, part 2

Back in June, I suggested that public voting records would be healthy for our democracy if the populace were comfortable revealing their voting records.  There is now a movement* and new web site for this called Who Voted? though they are not going as far as I am in advocating for revealing your actual choices.

True to my word, I voted absentee, which not only gave me an opportunity to photocopy my completed ballot, but also gave me some time fill out each choice so that I could double-check and not make a mistake.  I am revealing to you each of my ballot choices.  My home state is Nevada, I’ll let you look up the details of the ballot choices if you care.

  • U.S. President/VP: Obama/Biden
  • U.S. Rep. in Congress: Shelly Berkeley
  • State Senate: David Parks
  • State Assembly: Joe Hogan
  • Justice of Supreme Court Seat B: Deborah Schumacher
  • Justice of Supreme Court Seat D: Mark Gibbons
  • District Court Judge, Dept. 6: Elissa Cadish
  • District Court Judge, Dept. 7: Linda Marie Bell
  • District Court Judge, Dept. 8: Doug Smith
  • District Court Judge, Dept. 10: William D. Kephart
  • District Court Judge, Dept. 12: Michelle Leavitt
  • District Court Judge, Dept. 14: Donald M. Mosley
  • District Court Judge, Dept. 17: Michael Villani
  • District Court Judge, Dept. 22: Susan Johnson
  • District Court Judge, Dept. 23: Stefany Miley
  • District Court Judge, Dept. 25: Kathleen E. Delaney
  • District Court Judge, Family Div. Dept. G: Cynthia “Dianne” Steel
  • District Court Judge, Family Div. Dept. I: Greta Muirhead
  • District Court Judge, Family Div. Dept. J: Kenneth Pollock
  • District Court Judge, Family Div. Dept. K: Vincent Ochoa
  • District Court Judge, Family Div. Dept. L: Jennifer Elliot
  • District Court Judge, Family Div. Dept. N: Mathew Harter
  • District Court Judge, Family Div. Dept. O: Frank P. Sullivan
  • District Court Judge, Family Div. Dept. P: Jack Howard
  • District Court Judge, Family Div. Dept. Q: Bryce Duckworth
  • District Court Judge, Family Div. Dept. R: Chuck Hoskin
  • State Question 1: Yes
  • State Question 2: Yes
  • State Question 3: Yes
  • State Question 4: Yes

For the various judges I did not do in depth research, but rather mostly relied on the recommendation of The Sun, which is the liberal paper in Nevada.  Here are some noteworthy choices and reasoning:

David Parks: “Democratic Assemblyman David Parks wants more participation in the state’s health insurance program for children. He would also like to see the Mojave Generating Station in Laughlin, which closed in 2005, converted into a facility for producing solar power. The Sun endorses David Parks.”

Joe Hogan: “The Democratic incumbent, Joe Hogan, has earned good grades in his previous two terms. We like his support for developing Nevada’s renewable energy potential. The Sun endorses Joe Hogan.”

Deborah Schumacher: She’s been a family court judge for 15 years; her opponent is an attorney with no previous judicial experience; her opponent also endorsed McCain and Palin and criticized Obama at a rally, when judges are supposed to be politically neutral.

On the State Questions I went against the Sun’s recommendation on a couple of them:

State Question 1: I feel that state constitutions should not be in violation of the U.S. Constitution, and this corrects that issue.

State Question 2: The Sun says this is costly and unworkable, but the chance of a citizen being trampled on by the State via corrupt eminent domain proceedings is too high to compromise on.

State Question 3: The Sun say that lawmakers should be doing this anyway and that it doesn’t belong in the constitution.  I’m not so trusting of lawmakers.

State Question 4: Lets lawmakers amend sales tax law without a vote from the people in order to conform with federal law, which sellers have to do anyway; this will make it easier for sellers to abide by tax laws.

hat tip: Jessa Forsythe-Crane for helping with the research

* As far as I know, my blog post had nothing to do with this.  Coincidentally the site was created by the academic department which conferred my undergrad degree (Symbolic Systems).  If anything, the causal arrow goes from them to me, but as you know by now I favor emergent causality.

  • Along those lines, you might want to take a look at this:
    http://taoist.wordpress.com/2006/11/07/reiterating-science-has-solved-most-voter-security-issues/
    A technology that enables everyone to check that their vote is secure without revealing exactly what their vote is.

  • Yes, I agree that technologically it’s a solved problem, has been for many years. The real issue is that the problem is not about technology but rather the system in which the technology is embedded. While it looks easy to just put the right technology in place everywhere, the federalist system you love (amongst other things), makes that really difficult.

  • That is true. The weakness of distributed systems is when you want to apply something everywhere. Voting security is definitely one of those areas where we’ve technologically solved the problems, and yet haven’t found the political will to apply those solutions. Of course, as with any bureaucracy, this is also an area where the people who have the power to fix the system are currently the ones benefiting from its brokenness.

  • Here’s the question though: is it easier to implement political change in 50 smaller locations, or one bigger location?

  • I think the lesson of complex systems is that systems that are heterogeneous are more resilient and resistant to attack. Thus, it would be easier to implement political change with a national popular vote than the current federalist system.

  • Ah, but by that logic, a national popular vote, being homogeneous, would also be less resilient, and weaker to attack, right?

  • Yes, exactly. But we’ve defined the problem as “weaker to attack” being a good thing in this case. Meaning that we don’t want a structurally biased reason for incumbents to stay in power. Electing the official that is the will of the people at large should be as frictionless as possible, esp. in the case where the official governs the people as a whole.

  • Well, that’s certainly true. But wouldn’t attack also include fraud, intimidation, and other election shenanigans?

  • If everyone were voting on the same electronic system, for instance, then yes there would be a single point of attack for a fraudster. However, it also makes it easier to prevent and easier to detect since you only have to scrutinize one place.

    To be more precise, the centralized system is prone to certain forms of attack and failure, but against distributed, heterogeneous attack, it’s less vulnerable due to the ability of the system to defend a single stronghold and be vigilant with fewer resources and coordination required.

    My contention is that the problem we are facing is a mismatch between the current goals of the system (elect who the people as a whole will to lead them) and design of the system. Granted the framers designed the system to achieve their goals, but times have changed and so have the needs and goals of the country. State autonomy is not as important for people as it was back then, as evidenced by the 70% approval rating nationwide for a national popular vote.

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