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Friday, November 05, 2004

 
Quickie: Ohio voting machine gets it wrong. Not that this glitch would sway the election one way or another (it registerd about 3,000 votes for Bush that he didn't get).

In developing widely-used applications, it can be quite difficult to track down bugs. Inside the computer industry software testing standards vary widely from one company to another; I'm not familiar with any legal requirements for testing voting machines, but if there are none than we can expect these sorts of problems to continue into the future. One issue is the engineering cost of creating a fail-safe voting system; our Democracy deserves such a thing but no one wants to pay the capital to develop it. Politics are also involved, as are profit motives. Hopefully, over time, more reliable systems can be built. This goes for vote-tallying equipment (machines that read paper ballots) as well as individual voting kiosks. This may be an area for a bit of federal investment as a good-faith measure on the part of the government. There's little chance such a thing could pass under the Bush administration (they're too focused on privatization), but I'm of the opinion it'd be the best solution. It will take longer, be a bit more wasteful, and has the potential to become a bureaucratic nightmare. On the other hand, if you look at the "standards" community (think w3c, the folks who put out definitions of web standards like xml, html, etc.), I think they've been reasonably effective at producing standards that ensure most stuff works. I, for one, would propose that voting machines move towards a real-time OS model (instead of running on some version of Windows). Right now, based on what I've read in the newspapers (not an entirely accurate source), most systems use a standard operating system and off-the-shelf software components along with off-the-shelf hardware. That sort of design is more cost-effective, to be sure. However, A voting machine doesn't have to do much that's fancy and while making custom hardware and software would initially be more expensive, the peace of mind it could afford would, I think, be worth the expense.

Andrew 5:10 PM : |



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News:
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Magazines:
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Bloggers we like:
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blog.lukeclayton.net

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Kevin Drum
Cursor

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