Category Archives: election administration

Overseas voting and the Internet

Kudos to Michael for the links to overseas voting systems in other countries.  If you read between the lines–or maybe read more directly Alvarez and Hall’s book on electronic elections–Mike’s implication is clear.  Fixing overseas citizen and military voting may finally move us toward a secure system of internet voting.

That was the sense I had from the National Assocation of Secretaries of State (NASS) and National Assocation of State Elections Directors (NASED) meeting: many states are considering some internet-based solution to the UOCAVA problem.

Methinks the time may be ripe for a second edition of Mike and Thad’s book.

Alternative Voting News of the Week


SoS Jennifer Brunner is being criticized by state legislators because she allowed individual counties to choose whether to send absentee ballot applications to all voters, and whether to include return postage.  Brunner argues that the legislature failed to allocate enough funds.  The Legislature counters that not all allocated funds were used, and not sending them to all voters leads to inconsistency and unfairness.  Story in the Dispatch.


King County’s first all vote by mail election is underway.


Governor Kaine is proposing no-excuse absentee balloting, but local officials are worried about the cost implications.  A number publicly acknowledge, however, that no one pays much attention to the 17 excuses mandated under current law.  Story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The Arlington General Registrar says he likes the idea, and advocates a fully all by mail system.

Groups Aim To Ease Overseas Voting For Americans

Pam Fessler did a story on NPR about overseas voting.   She notes that most people listening to her report have 48 more days before they vote in this year’s elections. But for an estimated 6 million Americans living overseas or serving in the military, deadlines to receive and cast a ballot are rapidly approaching, and some might have already missed the boat.  The story can be access here

Traffic study claims that driving to vote could be hazardous

Here’s a link to a story about this study, to be published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that claims that traffic deaths are higher than expected otherwise on Election Day.

Here’s a quick summary of the study:

The researchers looked at traffic-related deaths during polling hours on presidential Election Days and the two Tuesdays before and afterward over 30 years.

There were 3,417 total deaths, including 1,265 on election days. The Election Day average was 158, versus 134 on the other Tuesdays. The crashes involved drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

Correlation or causation? Hard to say, I’m not able to yet download and read this study. But I’ll try to dig it up later today, and to also monitor what other researchers say about this study once they have had a chance to look it over.

Voter Identification at APSA

So the voter identification panel yesterday at APSA, at least the part that I could attend, was quite interesting.

First, the panel was packed — literally standing room only. I didn’t get a head count, but the fact that the session was packed to me demonstrated the importance of the voter identification issue and the growing importance of the study of election administration in political science.

The one presentation that I heard (not involving work that I’m involved on) regarded some interesting survey data that Matt Barreto talked about. The survey data that his team has collected estimates the availability of the identification necessary for voting in Indiana, thus studying the potential effects of Indiana’s voter identification requirement on the electorate. I’ll try to get a copy of this paper so I can take a closer look at their analysis.

[September 3, 2008 Update] Here’s a link to the Barreto, Nuno and Sanchez paper, “The Disproportionate Impact of Photo Identification Requirements on the Indiana Electorate.”

Election laws: principle vs. practice

This story was sent to me by an interested reader of our blog, from a local paper in Arlington, VA.

Unless I misread the recorder’s comments, taking a broad view is essentially implementing a no-excuse absentee ballot rule.  Even though Virginia has some of the “toughest rules in the country,” according to the story, in practice, the requirements may be far less strict.

This points out just how difficult it is to say with any certitude what the state of election administration is in the United States.  I am involved in some efforts to map out the terrain of election laws in this country, specifically absentee and early balloting laws, but, as any student of public administration and public policy knows, the law is just part of the overall picture.

Governments and Companies Struggle With Data Security

There’s an interesting story in the Washington Post, “Companies Struggle to Keep Data Safe.” The lead paragraph in the story notes: “A staggering 94 percent of companies admit that they are powerless to prevent confidential data from leaving their company by e-mail, according to a new study from Mimecast.”

But it’s not just corporations that are having trouble with data security, especially data leaks through email:

“Most leaks occur via e-mail,” confirmed James Blake, Mimecast’s chief product strategist. “Two thirds of data leaks occur via e-mail.” He highlighted an Infowatch survey, which said that 95 percent of leaks are accidental. “I would go along with that figure,” he said. “From what I have seen most leaks are accidental.”

Yet e-mail leaks are nothing new. Back in May this year, the Conservative party accidentally e-mailed the voting intentions of 8,000 voters in the Crewe and Nantwhich by election, to a journalist at a local radio station. It was thought that the automated completion of an e-mail address was to blame for the mistake.

Government agencies — including election officials — might want to take a look at this article and some of the information it reports regarding data security issues.

The survey was conducted by Mimecast. Here’s the interesting content from the press release:

LONDON 29 July, 2008 – An independent survey commissioned by email management company Mimecast has revealed that an alarming 94% of companies are powerless to stop confidential information from leaving their organisation by email. The survey revealed that just 6% of all respondents were confident that anyone attempting to send confidential company information by email out of the organisation would be prevented from doing so.

The independent survey, conducted amongst a sample of 125 IT managers, revealed that 32% of companies would not even be aware that confidential information had been leaked so would be unable to take steps to minimise the damage or track down the source of the information. However, 62% would be able to retrospectively identify the email leak once the information had been sent, but confessed to being unable to prevent its disclosure.

According to Dr James Blake, security expert at Mimecast, “The picture revealed by this survey points to fundamental security issues with protecting not only a company’s own data but also customer data like patient records or credit card numbers.” He adds, “With the blurring of boundaries between company employees and external consultants, contractors, outsourcers and other third parties, it is now much more difficult to ensure the appropriate flow of information outside the organisation. Especially since the majority of employees are now knowledge workers with access to significant amounts of confidential data.”

According to Bob Tarzey, security analyst at Quo Circa, “These figures do not surprise me – on the whole employees are not sending stuff out maliciously, but through carelessness or lack of fore-thought. Education can help to some extent, but many employees are using communications tools all day, every day and mistakes will happen, so having checks in place makes sense. Affordability of available technology to tackle the problem is also a problem, as most businesses are unable to invest in the high end, on-premise Data Leak Prevention (DLP) products that large business can, so the availability of on-demand services like those offered by Mimecast to achieve the same end is welcome providing performance is not adversely affected.”