Sunday, June 14, 2015

Play Ball!

Here in Kansas City, we are the proud fans of the defending American League champions, the Kansas City Royals.

The last year that could be typed, the Internet wasn't even a gleam in the eye.

Who knows, if we wait another 30 years to say it, we will be communicating, maybe, through gleams in our eyes.

In any event, the Royals were 90 feet from tying the game in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 7 and, had they done that, who knows?  They might not have been the best team in baseball, or lost the World Series to the best team in baseball, but in October at least, the Royals and the San Francisco Giants were the two best teams in baseball.

The Royals are playing like defending champions this year, with the best record in the American League one-third of the way into the season.

As the All Star Game approaches, and fan balloting cascades, it would be reasonable to think the Royals would be well-represented in the fan vote.  The Royals are good, and they became America's darlings, to a degree, because, well, most of America didn't know Kansas City had a baseball team until last October.

What's this have to do with elections?

This year, fan balloting is entirely on the Internet.

This year, if voting ended today, we would see a Royals player starting at almost every position.

That's exciting here.  I remember years where the Yankees or Red Sox or Mariners dominated the roster, and those teams were good then.  This doesn't seem surprising to me, and I'm just glad to be a lifelong Royals fan.

But this year, because of the wrinkle of Internet voting, the whole thing is wrong.  Or, at least that's what the national sports media things.  Something must be done, say baseball purists.  Fans are unfairly voting for the Royals players too much!

Internet voting advocates should take note.  This is a tiny piece of what would happen in the real world.

Candidate A wins a city council race.  It must be because the Internet voting was rigged.

I often point out, and no one seems to listen, that we should be thankful for our old, falling apart voting equipment.  We know the objections with what we have.  With new technology, we will face a whole new round of wild claims and voter concerns.  Some will be valid, but most will not.

It will be Black Box Voting all over again.

Black Box Voting times 1,000, Cartman from "South Park" might say.

One thing with the All Star voting--what if they didn't give updates?  I understand that the "who is winning" stories are designed to stir interest in the sport, but would the Royals players have the same lead if all of the results were an election-night surprise?

Academy Award voting is done on the Internet--"And the Oscar goes to...."--no claims of wrongful voting there.  There were gripes of the usability or the age old "did my vote really count?" question, but the All Star voting questions are new.  Maybe the updates are to blame.

Regardless, the All Star game points out that society thinks it's normal to vote over the Internet.  No one is complaining that paper-based balloting is the way to go.  The complaints are more about control of the number of votes someone is allowed to make.

The other elephant in the room with Internet voting is the continued cyber attacks on systems.  When the IRS is attacked, it makes it harder to suggest that a voting system couldn't be hacked.

All of this just points out what we election administrators have always known:  there is security and there is the perception of security, procedures we follow to give voters more confidence that votes are secure.  Without voter confidence, we have nothing.

It is with that thought that I leave soon to observe local elections in Albania.  The mere presence of observers instills voter confidence of a fair election.  Any system, even the the All Star voting online, must be open to scrutiny.  Even, more than anywhere else in fact, the system in Johnson County must face that scrutiny, in my opinion.

Transparency is the key to fair elections, just as it is the key to good government.

I expect to come back with ideas to further increase transparency in our election process and am anxious to begin applying those learnings upon my return, just in time to learn the final results of the fan voting.

I'm taking Royals trinkets as gifts for our interpreter and driver.  If the Internet results are real, these will be the only 2 people in the world who can't rattle off the starting lineup of the Royals.

2 comments:

Tom Carignan said...

Thank you Brian for the posting to the blog and for your service here in JoCo.

I admit I enjoy those early morning runs to the polling station and now with my 6 year old daughter it has added meaning as I try and teach her good citizenship. I also completely agree with your assertion "Transparency is the key to fair elections, just as it is the key to good government." This transparency has me thinking about how we can move elections into the digital age while maintaining transparency, fairness and legality.
Not sure how closely you follow the advancements in financial technology but I think the blockchain and its basic functionality as a distributed ledger could help with processes like elections. It is probably way out there, but if every vote had to be validated by each node on the ledger it could possibly facilitate an election. Obviously there would have to be other parts of the overall process but food for thought anyway.

Thanks again and have a great summer.

Angela Navejas said...

Your blog article is really very nice and informative.. I hope you will share some more delicate information about election diary.Thanks for sharing your experience and please keep sharing.

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