My New Year's resolution to post to my blog more often was quickly challenged by my ongoing battle royale with the office cold, which has been epic. Thus I didn't have a chance to post a timely link to Clive Thompson's terrific piece on the problems with computerized voting machines - luckily, now the NYT archive is free, and Clive handily posted the piece to his blog.
It was a typically Clivean excellent piece - full of great details, good explanations, and terrific quotes. No one who works with computers could have failed to have a chill run up their spine reading this:
When a county buys touch-screen voting machines, its elections director becomes, as Warren Parish, a voting activist in Florida, told me, "the head of the largest I.T. department in their entire government, in charge of hundreds or thousands of new computer systems, without any training at all."
My one disappointment with the piece is that he didn't mention the other way people are working to ensure that votes are counted correctly -- through design. The Design for Democracy project of AIGA, which featured among other contributors the work of my friend and neighbor Mary Quandt, has created best practices for polling place and ballot design, from a visual and information design standpoint. Their work has been accepted as official guidelines by the federal Elections Assistance Committee, and AIGA continues to work with individual states (including, yes, Florida), to make their ballots and polling place instructions easier to read and understand. Reliable voting machines are important, but a butterfly ballot could still screw up even the most technologically perfect election.