Obama 1 – Voting systems 0

Being an obsessive reader and interpreter of signs, it’s natural that I’m also an election night addict. Yesterday was no exception, a psephelogist’s dream. The night belonged to President Obama but a hat-tip nonetheless to the dogged band of professional pollsters who consistently predicted an easy win – not because the national, popular, vote was so heavily in Obama’s favour but because they understood exactly how fine tuned and laser precise was the work of David Plouffe’s TeamObama in determining to which areas they needed to turn their attention and resources. To eke out such an electoral college majority (currently standing at 303) from only nine swing states is truly impressive.

I was intrigued during the President’s victory speech by a near throwaway comment. In his warm up, commenting on the struggle that many citizens had in getting to vote, Obama – clearly ticked off – stated “by the way, we have to fix that”, a reference to the creaking and inefficient voting systems in use across the country. What other Western democracy has people in line for nearly a whole working day? Has so many cases of alleged fraud, faulty voting machines, mis-counted votes? Hanging and pregnant chads, anyone? And, despite the landslide, Florida still hasn’t gotten around to counting all its votes.

As readers will know, I am heavily engaged in the US National Strategfy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) and the private-sector led organization set up to deliver its objectives.

Last night’s comment by President Obama got me to thinking: are’t the technologies today mature enough to deliver a secure, trusted, online solution to voting? With all the displacements in New Jersey and New York following Hurrican Sandy, one would have thought there was an ideal opportunity for using secure mobile devices, like…I don’t know…the cell phones in our pockets? What’s to stop this being looked into? The swathe of new electoral legislation in many states in the run up to yesterday’s election reflected growing unease about authenticating eligible voters (if often motivated by partisan spite) and voters are equally uneasy about how secure, and secret, their secret ballot really is once it is delivered electronically.

This would seem like a perfect pilot for NSTIC: examine the technological feasibility; look at the policy constraints and requirements; consider the registration, ballot delivery, voting, reporting, auditing processes along with the privacy, security and citizen concerns.

More on this tomorrow after I recover from my post-election hangover…

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