-Aspen's historic May 5, 2009 IRV election audited as single ballots- 5/5/09 Aspen CO held an instant runoff election (IRV) for mayor and 2 council members. Interpreted contents of each ballot, scanned by True Ballot, were publicly released. Open records requests for a CD of image scans were denied. Aspen has been sued to protect records from destruction and to allow inspection of the scanned ballot files. A Court of Appeals ruling holds that unidentifiable ballots are public records.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I recently filed a complaint with the Aspen Election Commission, asking the Commission to determine whether Aspen’s May 2009 election was a secret ballot election as required under the Colorado Constitution. I’d like a few moments of your time to explain why I did that and why your rights are at stake.
They know where you voted and they know when you voted. Each precinct has a log, where you are signed into the system in the order that you entered. That log is a public document, and the campaigns of all the serious candidates monitor the logs so they can keep track of who voted and who didn’t. Big Brother government is the keeper of the logs, but many people have full copies of them.
Can they find out how you voted? Decide for yourself. The City scanned all the ballots. Then they released data (called the “Strings”) showing how each ballot was voted.
Unfortunately the City didn’t “shuffle”, or otherwise randomize, the order of the Strings before they released that data. And the City never shuffled the ballots. Rather, the City says they “cut” the ballot deck, and took some other sorting measures, when they scanned the ballots.
Because the City didn’t randomize the data there are inevitably going to be sequences of the Strings that match up with sequences of the logs. Say I have a brand new deck of cards. I’d have to cut it a lot of times in order to randomize the cards. That’s why most people shuffle.
So if I can find my String I can probably see how the people around me on my log voted (and vice versa). How hard is it to find your String? Not very if you remember how you voted and where you voted. Approximately 88% of the Strings are unique and not matched by another voter. And the Strings are conveniently packaged by precinct into separate fields, so you’d only have to search one field of the Strings and not the whole thing.
It is my understanding that one of the Council members may have found his String. So now we have a situation where a sitting Council member could potentially see how the people listed on the log near him voted.
The City says my line of reasoning relies on probability and that I can’t 100% prove any of this. I say it’s bad enough that I can even make this claim. The key fact is that the City released non-randomized voting data.
And so the City (without admitting or denying anything, lest they shake voter confidence in the May election) says it will remember to shuffle next time, so there’s no need to look into this move along nothing to see here move along. Evidently they believe that when the government violates our constitutional rights they can just mumble something about doing better next time and get a pass.
Be that as it may, and regardless of how one feels about Mick or Marilyn (or sex), we’ve got to be aware that elections have become computerized. It’s a fact of modern life that there’s a wealth of data out there about each of us, and data mining is here to stay. Modern election campaigns are high tech affairs, and they aggressively seek out any data they can get on voters. Similarly, the election process is highly computerized and centralized, and just recently it was announced that industry leader Election Systems and Software, Inc. was purchasing Diebold’s election division in a deal that is certain to create serious antitrust concerns. And then there’s Big Brother government.
We’ve got to establish the precedent now that computerized voting data must be handled in a manner that preserves voters’ constitutional rights to a secret ballot. So I have asked the Aspen Election Commission to investigate and determine whether the May 2009 election was a secret ballot election as required by the Colorado Constitution.
I’m sorry this guest opinion is not about Mick, Marilyn, or sex. Neither is my complaint.