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Residual Votes Attributable to Technology: An Assessment of the Reliability of Existing Voting Technologies

Working Paper No.: 
2
Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
Voting Technology Project
American elections are conducted using a hodge-podge of different voting technologies: paper ballots, lever machines, punch cards, optically scanned ballots, and electronic machines. And the technologies we use change frequently. Over the last two decades, counties have moved away from paper ballots and lever machines and toward optically scanned ballots and electronic machines. The changes have not occurred from a concerted initiative, but from local experimentation. Some local governments have even opted to go back to the older methods of paper and levers.

19th Century Ballot Reform in California: A Study of the Huntington Library's Political Ephemera Collection

Working Paper No.: 
1
Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
Melanie Goodrich
Caltech
Ballot reform is an important part of the American political process. During the 1800’s, ballots changed drastically. At the beginning of the century, voters wrote the names of the candidates for whom they wished to vote on a piece of paper and put that piece of paper into the ballot box. Legislation followed that allowed voters to cast professionally printed ballots, which opened the door to political parties providing their supporters with pre-printed ballots to cast. Towards the close of the century, the Australian ballot, also known as the secret ballot, was introduced

About the Voting Technology Project

Established by Caltech President David Baltimore and MIT President Charles Vest in December 2000 to prevent a recurrence of the problems that threatened the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election. Since establishment, members of the VTP have studied all aspects of the election process, both in the United States and abroad. VTP faculty, research affiliates, and students have written many working papers, published scores of academic articles and books, and worked on a great array of specific projects.

Voting - What Is, What Could Be

Date Published: 
07/01/2001
Author(s): 
Voting Technology Project
On December 15, 2000, the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced a collaborative project to develop new voting technology in order "to precent a recurrence of the problems that threatened the 2000 presidential election." The problems in the 2000 election go well beyond voting equipment. This report assesses the magnitude of the problems, their root causes, and how technology can reduce them.

Blanket primaries a step toward reform

Link to Article: 
Newspaper: 
Pasadena Star News
Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
R. Michael Alvarez
Op-Ed
Recently, I have been talking with people about the upcoming primary elections. I've been finding that some are just not interested in participating in California's June primary. A common thread in these conversations is a feeling that choices are limited. Regardless of the individual's partisanship and given that the legislative districts in our area are so heavily gerrymandered to favor one of the two major parties, some think they don't have meaningful choices in the upcoming primary.

Reform: Like shooting fish in a pork barrel

Link to Article: 
Newspaper: 
Pasadena Star News
Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
R. Michael Alvarez
Op-Ed
In recent years, I've walked the halls of Congress, meeting with staff members to discuss election reform. But in my visits, I don't get face-to-face access with members of Congress that real lobbyists receive. Lobbyists get better access due to personal connections, campaign contributions and the many other favors they provide to legislators. It's these behind closed doors meetings where the real business in Washington gets conducted, meetings that typical constituents rarely receive. And that's the problem with how business is done today in Washington.

State desperately needs redistricting reform

Link to Article: 
Newspaper: 
Pasadena Star News
Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
R. Michael Alvarez
Op-Ed
The other day, a colleague asked me about redistricting reform in California. He had three questions. Why do we need it, how do we do it, and why now? We need to fix how legislative boundaries are drawn in California for a few simple reasons. One reason is that today's districts do not respect local communities, but instead our state is carved into bizarre districts whose primary purpose is to reelect incumbents.

Governor should hold to promise of reform

Link to Article: 
Newspaper: 
Pasadena Star News
Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
R. Michael Alvarez
Op-Ed
It was just a year ago, back in January 2005, when Gov. Schwarzenegger said in his State of the State Address, "This year we must heal the patient" (the "patient", in his odd metaphor, being the state of California). To heal the patient, the governor argued that we had to do two things: reform the way the government spends money and the way the government operates.

Who Votes by Mail? A Dynamic Model of the Individual-Level Consequences of Vote-By-Mail Systems

Author(s): 
Nancy Burns
Adam Berinsky
Michael Traugott
Journal: 
Public Opinion Quarterly
pp: 
178-197
Link to Article: 
Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Election administrators and public officials often consider changes in electoral laws, hoping that these changes will increase voter turnout and make the electorate more reflective of the voting-age population. The most recent of these innovations is voting-by-mail (VBM), a procedure by which ballots are sent to an address for every registered voter. Over the last 2 decades, VBM has spread across the United States, unaccompanied by much empirical evaluation of its impact on either voter turnout or the stratification of the electorate.

Point, Click, and Vote

Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
Thad E. Hall
R. Michael Alvarez
point_click_vote.jpg

Whether responding to a CNN.com survey or voting for the NFL All-Pro team, computer users are becoming more and more comfortable with Internet polls. Computer use in the United States continues to grow—more than half of all American households now have a personal computer. The next question, then, becomes obvious. Should Americans be able to use the Internet in the most important polls of all?

Some advocates of Internet voting argue that Americans are well suited to casting their ballots online in political elections. They are eager to make use of new technology, and they have relatively broad access to the Internet. Voting would become easier for people stuck at home, at the office, or on the road. Internet voting might encourage greater political participation among young adults, a group that stays away from the polling place in droves. It would hold special appeal for military personnel overseas, whose ability to vote is a growing concern. There are serious concerns, however, regarding computer security and voter fraud, unequal Internet access across socioeconomic lines (the "digital divide"), and the civic consequences of moving elections away from schools and other polling places and into private homes and offices. After all, showing up to vote is the most public civic activity many Americans engage in, and it is often their only overt participation in the democratic process.

In Point, Click, and Vote, voting experts Michael Alvarez and Thad Hall make a strong case for greater experimentation with Internet voting. In their words, "There is no way to know whether any argument regarding Internet voting is accurate unless real Internet voting systems are tested, and they should be tested in small-scale, scientific trials so that their successes and failures can be evaluated." In other words, you never know until you try, and it's time to try harder.

The authors offer a realistic plan for putting pilot remote Internet voting programs into effect nationwide. Such programs would allow U.S. voters in selected areas to cast their ballots over any Internet connection; they would not even need to leave home. If these pilot programs are successful, the next step is to consider how they might be implemented on a larger scale in future elections.

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