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|Volume VII, Number 4 December, 2000|
Systems, Incorporated in December of 1995, has now been in existence for 5
years. During this period, Chenault
Systems has served 46 clients and has added 5 new clients this year.
The company has grown by 35% since this time last year.
Plans for 2001 include:
By Tom Chenault
There is an old favorite
saying among efficiency consultants: “Instead of spending time and money
fighting alligators, drain the swamp.” While
the state of Florida may have a majority of swamps and alligators, they are not
in the minority in terms of inefficient voting systems regarding the recent
presidential election. Many of the
states had problems; however, the Florida election was a systems consultant’s
worst nightmare. Punch cards are a
technology that belongs to the 50’s and 60’s, not the 21st
century. In Denton County, Texas, we had optical scanner systems where
the voter simply connected two lines with a special felt tip pen.
The intent of the voter is easy to recognize.
The instructions were simple: It’s not a vote unless the lines are
connected. Anybody who has ever
played with crayons could do it. In
addition, this approach lends itself to recounting with an optical scanner or by
hand. Texas also has standards for
recounting ballots by hand, whereas Florida does not.
Florida decision to count the cards by hand, regardless of the legal
implications, was a very bad systems decision.
Counting the cards by machine is the only accurate way to get a
consistent count, which is why there is a Florida statute that supports it.
Counting the cards by hand, without any pre-set standards, leads to
faulty, inconsistent counts due to human mistakes and political mischief.
The worst part of card technology is the idiotic paper chads -- hanging
chads, dimpled chads, swinging chads, etc., -- which led to a complete
embarrassment to the Florida election process.
The Florida Supreme Court created more mayhem by not recognizing the
November 14th. 5:00 PM return deadline (the law) and then, not
setting any recount standards. No
one drained the swamp to end the enormous overhead cost of alligators (election
workers, lawyers, media, demonstrators, and administration).
Interestingly, if the correct technology had been used for voting in
Florida, the legal and political problems could have been avoided.
is a better technology? Almost
anything is better than chaotic punch cards.
We must also keep in mind the objective of voting systems, which is to
provide a fair and accurate count accomplished in a timely manner.
If the election is very close, as in the Florida case, then any recounts
must be done quickly before the politicians and media can spoil it for the rest
about the Internet? This could be
the ideal system for elections. People
would vote on on-line computers from local schools, churches, fire stations,
etc. Allowing voting from home
would not be advisable because there needs to be some kind of administrative
controls to supplement the on-line controls.
Software would be easier to use, providing an environment for simple data
entry, data validation, and ballot submittal.
On-line help could be provided – no more “I don’t understand the
butterfly ballot” excuse. Furthermore, a nationwide consistent look and feel
could be established. The voting
form could be large, easy to read, as there is no limit the display space –
multiple screens could be employed. After
the voter is finished, a paper report is printed with two copies, as a paper
trail is still necessary. One copy
goes home with the voter and a signed copy stays with the local election
officials as a paper backup. At the
end of the Election Day, the hard copy report totals must agree with the on-line
Election night would be fascinating with totals accurate
to the second, minimizing the confusion which always seems to be present with
media projections. In other words,
the public could be watching the real returns from their computers over the
Internet rather than watching polling projections on television.
All the county computers would be linked together all over the country.
A sophisticated, consolidated national database would keep track of all
the votes by state for the Electoral College or national totals for the popular
vote. There could also be county
and state databases.
From a pure technological point of view, the security of
the Internet far exceeds anything we have with election equipment now, which is
supported by the debacle we had in Florida.
All kinds of user name and password protection, along with both hardware
and software firewalls would be deployed.
Interestingly, if the correct technology had been used for voting in Florida, the legal and political problems could have been avoided.
Fewer election workers and officials would be needed, a
return on investment likely superseded only by the accuracy of the count.
Less people involved is better because people, not computers, commit
fraud and voter fraud is the biggest problem in elections.
Conversely, from a political
point of view, Internet voting may have a tough time getting approved.
Politicians do not like business-like black and white solutions.
They can’t control them. The
general public would not trust it at first.
Then again, like everything else, they would embrace it over time.
For example, there was a strong reluctance among teachers to use e-mail.
Now, you can’t take it away from them.
Someday the Internet and databases will become the voting engine of The
United States. It’s just a matter
of time. The election of 2000 is
the beginning of this quest for a technological solution instead of more
cumbersome political one.
enough time, history always repeats itself and the computer industry is no
exception. In the mid 1970’s, we
had the beginning of a departure from the mainframe computer world to a
technology called “computer timesharing.”
Timesharing was the sharing of computer resources from remote locations
using a terminal connected via the phone lines and first form of personal
computing. It was expensive, though
not nearly so as buying one’s own mainframe, so it was hardly for individuals.
Industry and government agencies typically took advantage of timesharing
technology, which was much easier to use than the mainframe technology.
the mid 1980’s, relatively low cost personal computers, along with local area
networks, made the concept of timesharing temporarily obsolete and, for the most
part, finished off the mainframe as a dominant culture. In the mid 1990’s, the Internet brought back the concept of
timesharing to the masses at a low cost with high bandwidth speed.
The general public became enamored with it over night.
years ago, only a few knew about timesharing, which was the beginning of the
Internet. Today, millions of people
are now using computer and telecommunications technology to streamline
operations and process information.
Quotes Worth Noting
“A democracy cannot exist
as a permanent form of government. It
can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money
from the public treasure. From that
moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money
from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over
loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred
years. These nations have
progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from
spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to
abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from
complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to
bondage.” -- Alexander Tyler, Scottish Professor, 1787
“We’re going through a
big change…. because of the Internet. In
a way, it’s like saying good-bye to pop culture as we know it.” --
“In the United States the
majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of
individuals, who are thus relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of
their own.” -- Alexis de Tocqueville
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