Larry Hosken: New: Tag: choice

Book Report: One Person, No Vote

It's a whirlwind tour of voter suppression in the USA. Nowadays, Depending on who you ask, North Carolina is no longer considered a fully-functioning democracy; how did we land in this situation?

Nowadays, corrupt Secretaries of State ignore most kinds of election fraud, but focus on preventing one kind: Voter Fraud. Voter fraud involves getting a human being to go to a physical voting place and impersonate a voter. It would be a pretty stupid way to cheat at an election: the logistics of moving around many many fake voters is much more difficult than the logistics of, for example, moving around many many fake ballots. That's why eletion fraudsters use other means. Each election, scattered around the country you'll see new reports of a few confused folks voting twice; nowhere near enough to swing elections. But a corrupt Secretary of State will use this as an excuse to change state election rules so that only people who can show a driver's license can vote. Then the state shuts down DMV offices in carefully-chosen areas. Thus, most Black folks must travel far to get ID; white folks can pick up ID nearby. Unsurprisingly, many voters of color can't take a half-day to travel to get ID. When Alabama set up a Voter ID law, they "needed" to issue 300,000 IDs to cover every voter who didn't already have a license; but in fact Alabama only issued 5,000 of these IDs, having dissuaded the other voters via sheer hassle.

Some folks, railing against false voter fraud claims, go too far: they falsely claim that there is zero voter fraud out there. This book doesn't fall in that trap, thank goodness, instead pointing out the handful of loons who try it each year. That's good; if you're dealing with conspiracy theorists, you'd better not claim there's zero voter fraud when a quick news search will turn up a few cases.

Nowadays, corrupt Secretaries of State suppress votes by removing voters' names from the rolls. As presented, this sounds reasonable: when voters move away or pass on, you want their names off the rolls, lest fraudsters use those names for fraud a la 1960s-era Chicago. But nowadays states already remove these moved-on names from their rolls. Corrupt Secretaries of State remove many, many names of valid voters right before elections. E.g., Secretary of State Kemp removed the names of 600,000 people who had moved out of Georgia… except that 300,000 of those people hadn't actually moved out of state. By the time the courts step in, it's too late to fix the problem. Many removed-from-rolls voters figure out how to re-register in time for their vote to count, but many others don't. Somehow, the corrupt Secretary of State doesn't go to jail (in Kemp of Georgia's case, he instead went to the Governor's office); somehow, the election results are allowed stand.

Something I learned from this book: I knew that corrupt Secretaries of State removed voters from the rolls who hadn't voted for a few years. I didn't know that the NVRA specifically mentioned that this was not a valid reason to toss a voter off the rolls.

Gerrymandering is unusual in that both major parties do it. The book points out an interesting recent case: New Jersey, 2018, centrist Democrats wanted to gerrymander; progressive Democrats stopped them.

Anyhow, this book is one of those that I had to read slowly because I kept pausing to shake my fist.

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I wrote some notes about working the recent election. People wail and gnash their teeth about changes in election technology, but I was really glad to be using plastic security seals that I could close without bruising myself. OK, I guess those aren't the advances in election technology most folks are curious about, but it made a big difference to me. Anyhow, for more insights like that, follow the link.

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On Tuesday, I'll be volunteering as a poll worker at the site of a 2-Tone Game puzzle. Yes, I'll be working on an election at a place that I turned into a puzzle. This will be so very on-brand for me.

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Today I walked over to City Hall and voted. I didn't vote in the usual San Francisco way (marking pieces of paper with a pen). Instead, I used a ballot-marking device (BMD)—I interacted with a computer; basically a big tablet. It then printed out a piece of paper with my choices.

These devices are meant to ease voting for folks who have a hard time marking a piece of paper. E.g., blind folks have trouble marking pieces of paper; but a BMD can read their choices out loud and let them vote by pressing buttons.

That's not why I used one today. I was just curious. These devices show up in arguments about secure voting. BMDs are computers. Manufacturers of election-related-computers have a bad history of making insecure machines (and then suing folks who report security problems). So folks get nervous about using these computers. If you hang out on the internet, you'll run into people saying that we should do away with BMDs. (I haven't seen any great answers to the questions "How would blind folks vote?") I'd read some social-network teapot-tempests on the topic… but I'd never actually seen such a device in action.

I'd hoped to see a BMD in use when I volunteered at a polling place back in 2018, but our device had languished on a table, unused. Then at poll worker training a few weeks back, our instructor told us volunteers that ¾ of us would never see someone use a BMD. To see one in use, I used one.

I guess they really are used only rarely. The nice Department of Elections lady at city hall was surprised when I asked to use the machine…she already had a paper ballot ready for me. She struggled to set the machine up. (There's some set-up: you have to tell the machine which precinct and party to use. Voters in different parts of the cities have different contests to vote on. There's a primary election happening, so the ballot is different depending on the voter's party preference.) The nice Elections lady was supposed to enter a number, but she struggled to figure out how to enter it. I don't think she was stupid; I don't think she was part of some voting-computer-fraud conspiracy. I think folks just use these machines very rarely and she'd never set one up one before.

Once the machine was set up, I sat and interacted with its touch screen to make my choices. When I was done, I pressed a button to print out my ballot: one 8½✕11 piece of paper with a complex QR code, some numbers, and my votes in plain legible printing. That last part made me happy: my intent had been recorded on that piece of paper. Even if mean hackers disrupted the vote, auditors or recount-folks could look at that piece of paper and know what choices I'd made. Thus, this BMD-produced ballot was about the same, security-wise, as a hand-marked ballot.

That's not to say that BMDs are risk-free. Though the paper trail makes it hard to sneakily steal an election, mean hackers could still disrupt it. E.g., if I'd sat down at that computer and it had started playing the Michigan Wolverines Fight Song, I would have lost faith in the election process. It's tough to hack pieces of paper like that. But such a hack didn't happen today. Things went OK today.

It's good to try these things that folks on the internet are screaming bloody murder about to find out that, once again, the world has not ended.

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I got some snail-mail from Mike Bloomberg. I opened up the envelope, but there was no check inside. I don't understand his strategy as well as I thought I did, I guess.

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At today's Poll Worker training class, the instructor said that 80% of us volunteer election clerks would never see a ballot marking device (BMD) in action. That's too bad, since my curiosity about these devices is part of what drove me to volunteer in the first place. You might remember that when I volunteered back in '18, I was disappointed that nobody wanted to use the B.M.D.; and I chalked this up to the neighborhood's hilly nature. (Surely, I reasoned, anyone who lives in this hilly place must drive; and thus wouldn't need voting assistance from this device. All potential users would move to better neighborhoods.) But apparently, it's not just that neighborhood.

To satisfy my curiosity, I guess I could use a B.M.D. in the upcoming election. San Francisco has new devices, now with big printers. So it's plausible that the "marked ballots" it produces are actually legible. So I could double-check that it actually, y'know, marked the choices I wanted. And the upcoming election is relatively short—just a couple of sheets; so double-checking it wouldn't be such a chore.

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“Freedom isn't free.”    –Guy who went to City Hall to vote early and left his bus pass by the metal detector. ...

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Risk-Limiting Audits The new hotness in election integrity is Risk-Limiting Audits. I'm going to ramble a bit about them here because so far I've pretty much missed the point of what the "Risk-Limiting" phrase means. But...

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Clerk Life I volunteered as a poll worker in the recent election; you can read my notes about it. Spoilers: I got a lapel pin, much snazzier than a mere "I Voted!" sticker; a bird flew into our polling place bu...

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I survived my day as a precinct poll clerk volunteer. Did civilization survive? I don't know, I mostly kept my phone off. ...

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If you're in the USA, #BeAVoter . Vote tomorrow if you haven't already. Even if you and I don't agree on things, I want you to vote. Seriously. I'd rather that you vote than that you give up on the ...

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If you live near SF and are interested in election machines and/or election security, you might want to visit the SF Poll Worker Practice Lab on Nov 4 where you can set up, tear down, and operat...

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San Francisco Voter Guides Sparing you a google web search and rummaging around: SF Dept of Elections voter info, CA voter info. Candidate statements, arguments for & against propositions. SF League of Pissed-Off Voters....

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Californians, Don't vote for Mark Meuser I'm researching the California election. There are two candidates for Secretary of State, the incumbent and the challenger. The challenger wants me to know that California elections are in sorry shap...

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I'm researching the California election. There are two candidates for Secretary of State, the incumbent and the challenger. The challenger wants me to know that California elections are in sorry shap...

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Today in 2017 Congress-calling history: I spoke to a live human. Not a voicemail, not a web form, a human. June seemed like a nice lady. She totally didn't make fun of me for hesitating while I waite...

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Huh. Neither of my senators' voicemail boxes were full this morning. Maybe I should start leaving longer messages. ...

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USA congress-callers, you have other sites If 5 Calls isn't working for you today, here's a similar site: The 65. It doesn't conveniently show you your senator/rep's phone # on the same screen as info about the issue… but you...

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CA congress-callers, you have 2 senators I love reading tweets&posts from my friends calling their congress critters. The 5 Calls web site is pretty excellent for keeping track of issues to call about; and I see a lot of folks are using...

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I've been lurking on some right-wing websites, hoping to get a view outside my bubble. I was especially curious about voter fraud. There are some specific things that keep coming up—maybe the f...

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Hoo boy, political argument at the big family Thanksgiving dinner. We just couldn’t agree on what the worst thing about Trump is. ...

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Walking around my neighborhood today, I see 100% grim faces. It reminds me of hallways in companies facing multiple layoffs. ...

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San Francisco peeps who haven't already voted: Hoodline's Election Guide is a darned handy collection of slates. ...

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It's a double do-gooder shirt sticker day. (#IVoted a couple of weeks ago, but waited until today to affix the sticker.) ...

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SF folks, what excellent voter recommendations/endorsements am I overlooking? I'm looking for such that explain their thinking, not just say Yes on this, No on that. Here's the stuff I'm slogging thr...

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Comic Report: The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye This comic is funny. I say that right away because when I tell you the premise, you'll be tempted to click away thinking "oh that is some fauxlitical artsy-fartsy bullroar to be purchased by earnest ...

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Book Report: Lean In I heard a bunch of bad things about this book. I read it so that I could make fun of it. But now that I've read the book, the bad things I've heard seem like they were about a strawman version. I'll ...

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Book Report: Give and Take This book makes the case that you can behave nicely and still get ahead in business. Is this surprising? Does this need saying? Maybe; the author says that many folks don't think they can give others...

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Book Report: Dataclysm The OKCupid blog is pretty amazing. Way back when, it caused a stir talking about trends in USA interracial dating. Plenty of USA folks say they don't care about race. But when the OKCupid folks look...

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This evening's Adventure Design Group was the San Francisco Institute of Possibility. This was about as far from puzzlehunts as you can get—they run events that might be described as awesome pa...

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Book Report: Everything is Bullshit The Priceonomics blog wrote a book with a rude name. It's pretty interesting; a lot of it was stuff that I'd already read. (I wasn't subscribed to the blog, but other folks kept forwarding links&hell...

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Book Report: A Fighting Chance It's an autobiography by politician Elizabeth Warren. Before she w19as a politician, she was an academic. She studied bankruptcy. When she started, there was received wisdom around bankruptcy: people...

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Link: MAY ONE Who doesn't want anyone to study climate change? Wyoming's governor, that's who. Wyoming mines a lot of coal. If your re-election money comes from coal, you imagine a federal "war on coal." Most peop...

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If you lost count of the recent NSA citizen-snooping outrages but figure there are enough to justify nudging your legislators, The Day We Fight Back is a web site to guide you through that. ...

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Book Report: Griftopia We've had a chance to reflect on the financial disasters and bailouts of 2008. What have we learned? We learned that America's most successful bankers aren't those who are best at computing loan risk...

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I listened to the "Famine Game Reaping" snoutcast and then posted a question in the form of a personal failure of imagination: What if you were a GC running an application process and you wanted some...

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A day late, I figured out my Hallowe'en costume. On me, it's pretty scary. On someone of your sterling judgement, dear reader, it would be less so. ...

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Book Report: Broken Ballots A few people want to steal elections. A few billion people want fair elections. How do you make an election un-stealable? It's not easy. Elections do't run themselves; we need election officials. Fol...

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Book Report: All the President's Men I didn't think I'd learn anything from this book, but I was wrong. I thought everybody knows the story of All the President's Men: Plucky reporters Woodward and Bernstein investigate Watergate; they ...

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Book Report: Republic, Lost When Solyndra was falling apart, Republicans were screaming: these green companies were just boondoggles, false fronts to scoop up government money. It's easy to dismiss their complaints as a bunch o...

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Book Report: The Evolution of Cooperation It's a book by Robert Axelrod, who set up some groundbreaking game theory experiment/contests back in the day. He set up a computer program that would run other computer programs. Specifically, it ra...

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The Wooly Pig Cafe is better than Ike's (Sorry, out of towners, this blog post is only of interest to San Franciscans.) The best sandwich place in my neighborhood is the Wooly Pig Cafe. They put together some awesome sandwiches from ingre...

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Book Report: Too Big to Know We know a lot, and nowadays we know that we know a lot. I read a lot of books. But I read only a teeny-tiny fraction of the books that get published. And books are, in turn, just a teeny-tiny fractio...

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Book Report: Super Crunchers It's a book about working with Big Data. Considering some of the projects I've worked on, you think I'd be pretty excited. But my experience made me kind of picky about the details. At first, this bo...

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Book Report: Waltzing with Bears This book's subtitle is "Managing Risk on Software Projects" and it's written by the Peopleware guys. OK, nobody's reading this blog post anymore; the non-computer folks have clicked away to find som...

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Book Report: Priceless Yesterday, I dodged Black Friday, but didn't quite make it through Buy Nothing Day. I bought a streetcar ride and then a train ride down the peninsula. How much were those worth? I don't know. I k...

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Book Report: Predictably Irrational A series of musings about how people really behave. Or, rather, how they misbehave. Describes experiments about placebos, cheating, and other circumstances in which people lie to themselves and to o...

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Zine Report: Giant Robot #57 The Obama posters say "HOPE", but when Obama himself picks people... well, he undercuts hope. It's like he scraped my old book reports, looking for books about USA politics with villains and chose th...

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Book Report: Sources of Power This book came out ten years ago. It discusses how people make decisions. Not necessarily how people ought to make decisions--but how they do. It does have some advice on how people can make bette...

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Book Report: Pirate Freedom If you travel through time, are you free? Or are you hemmed in by predestination? (Postdestination? What do you call destiny when time travel is involved?) That's a complicated question, and fort...

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Book Report: How to Rig an Election This morning, I'm munching my breakfast, reading Slashdot's feed and I see a name I recognize. The strange part: the name is that of a politico, not a computer programmer. The Slashdot post is point...

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Book Report: Gaming the Vote I know what I can say about BANG 19 preparations. It's necessarily vague, in the name of seekricy, but it's heartfelt. Thank you you past Game Control folks who have shared advice, "war stories", a...

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Book Report: Deliver the Vote Deliver the Vote is a history of crooked elections in the U.S. of A. It doesn't try to describe all crooked elections. Just some good stories, just enough to fill up a few hundred pages. George Wa...

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Book Report: The Wisdom of Crowds Ron and Sua were in town on Friday. That's why I was stuck on a train. I'd had dinner with them on the peninsula, caught the train back, blammo. But it was good to see Ron, good to see Sua. This ...

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Book Report: What's the Matter With Kansas? Thomas Frank, a member of the liberal intellectual elite wrote this book for other members of the liberal intellectual elite to tell them that the formerly-liberal working class is tired of liberal ...

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