VTP News

Voting Technology Project Election Toolkit

Election administrators face many challenges planning for and running elections. This website offers tools based on the expertise of election administrators, business managers, and social science researchers that can help election administrators plan and conduct elections.

Our goal is to demonstrate what is possible with such tools. The Election Management Toolkit is an open access place where technologies can be shared and improved. We launch this site with three key tools developed. We encourage you to use these tools and give us (and the developers) feedback on them.

http://web.mit.edu/vtp/

Western Political Science Association Conference

At the upcoming WPSA meeting on March 28-30 in Hollywood, CA, we have several colleagues who will be presenting papers, and participating in panels.Panel 26.04, Electoral Processes and Voting (Sarah Hill, from the University of Fullerton will be a discussant).Panel 26.06, Electoral Reform.Panel 26.08, Technology, Elections and Voting --- Lonna Atkeson from the University of New Mexico is the chair.Panel 26.10, Voter Turnout and Mobilization --- Betsy Sinclair, University of Chicago, is giving paper.You can see these and the others at:http://67.23.162.102/browse.asp

Western Political Science Association Conference

At the upcoming WPSA meeting on March 28-30 in Hollywood, CA, we have several colleagues who will be presenting papers, and participating in panels.Panel 26.04, Electoral Processes and Voting (Sarah Hill, from the University of Fullerton will be a discussant).Panel 26.06, Electoral Reform.Panel 26.08, Technology, Elections and Voting --- Lonna Atkeson from the University of New Mexico is the chair.Panel 26.10, Voter Turnout and Mobilization --- Betsy Sinclair, University of Chicago, is giving paper.You can see these and the others at:http://67.23.162.102/browse.asp

The state of the U.S. election system

When it comes to the integrity and accuracy of voting systems in the United States, the good news is that widespread technological upgrades have largely eliminated the voting-machine problems that were so evident when Florida’s disputed recount determined the 2000 presidential election.The bad news is that some of those improvements in accuracy could be undermined by increases in early voting through the mail, which is turning out to be a relatively low-accuracy method of voting, according to a new research report released by MIT and the California Institute of Technology.“A lot of changes over the last decade have made voting in America better,” says Charles Stewart III, the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at MIT, who co-authored the new report with five colleagues at four universities. “The possibility of a [situation like Florida’s 2000 election] is much lower now than it was 12 years ago.”However, Stewart adds, “We have possibly gotten way ahead of ourselves in encouraging people to vote by mail. It’s pretty clear that the improvement we’ve gotten by having better voting machines in the precincts may be given back by having more and more people voting at home.”

Virtual Issue of Political Analysis on Election Fraud and Integrity

The new vitural issue of Political Analysis is currently online.  R. Michael Alvarez, and Ines Levin have put together this issue on election fraud and electoral integrity.  Here is the link:http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journals/polana/virtualissue3.html 

Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count

Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count - at MIT - Monday, 5/7 at 5 p.m. in 32-141

Extra information: the location is 32 Vassar Street, room 32-141, 1st floor of
the strange looking Frank Gehry Stata Building which will be unlocked.

Parking on the nearby streets is metered until 6 p.m. (25 cents per 15 minutes).
There are a number of local parking garages. Any MIT ungated lot is available
for free parking after 5 p.m. (technically).

RSVP-ing is appreciated but not required.

Be 32-G675 in Stata
phone: 617 253-6098

Broken Ballots -- Will Your Vote Count?
by Douglas W. Jones and Barbara Simons
published by the Center for the Study of Language and Information
distributed by University of Chicago Press Books

A talk by Douglas Jones
Monday, May 7, 2012 from 5:00 - 5:40 p.m.
32-141, Stata Center, MIT, 32 Vassar St, Cambridge, MA

For many of us, the presidential election of 2000 was a wake-up call. The controversy
following the vote count led to demands for election reform. But the new voting systems
that were subsequently introduced to the market have serious security flaws, and many
are confusing and difficult to use. Moreover, legislation has not kept up with the constantly
evolving voting technology, leaving little to no legal recourse when votes are improperly
counted. How did we come to acquire the complex technology we now depend on to count
votes? We probe how this came to be, along with public policy and regulatory issues raised
by modern voting technologies.

What others are saying about the book:
The cornerstone of our democracy is the right to vote and the right to have that vote counted
as it was intended. Broken Ballots first demonstrates clearly and compellingly the extent to
which that right is in jeopardy. Then it lays out a plan to preserve and protect that right. Kudos
to the authors and to all those fighting to safeguard our democracy. -- Kevin Shelley, Former
California Secretary of State.

This book is a must read, not only for election officials and other policy makers, but also for
public interest groups who seek to protect the vote and, indeed, for every citizen who wants his
or her vote to be counted. -- Fritz Schwarz, Chief Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice at the
New York University School of Law.

This book is essential reading for anyone who cares about elections. -- David Dill, Professor
of Computer Science at Stanford University.

Protecting Your Vote

Just ask Rick Santorum. In January, Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses, but, because of vote counting and tabulation errors, Mitt Romney was declared the winner. In the two weeks before the error became clear, Romney’s campaign gained momentum, while Santorum’s withered.

Unfortunately, the same problem – or worse – could easily occur in Massachusetts. This year, voters will choose the president, and control of the US Senate may come down to the race shaping up between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren.

How will voters know their votes will be counted accurately? Massachusetts voters cast paper ballots. This is a good foundation for an election system, since the paper ballots form an “audit trail” that can be examined (and if necessary, recounted). In almost all cities and towns in the state, those ballots are slid into machines that read the ballots and total up all the votes at each polling place. The machines are reprogrammed for every election, but only 50 to 75 ballots are used to check the new programming, even though 1,000 ballots or more are likely to be put into each voting machine on Election Day. Votes from each location are then brought together and tabulated. In both steps of the process, there is the possibility of significant error.

As a technologist, I have spent decades working with information systems and computer programs, and can say one thing with certainty: mistakes can happen. In banking, business, and engineering, similar problems often arise, and they are solved elegantly: with random testing. The IRS does not take every tax return on faith – it audits a small number of them. These audits uncover errors and fraud, and serve as deterrent. Athletes are randomly tested for performance-enhancing drugs. Factories pull random samples of their products off the production line and conduct quality control checks. Municipalities send inspectors to gas stations to make sure that when the meter says you have pumped a gallon, there actually is a gallon of gas in your tank.

Audits and random tests are used anytime there are numbers involved and a lot at stake. And what could be more important than the elections we use to choose our government’s leaders?

Twenty-six states have election audits and that number is growing. After an election, the state selects a few random polling places to count the ballots by hand. The hand-counted totals are compared to machine results. If the numbers are close enough, there is confidence that any errors or mis-programming sufficient to have affected the election outcome will be discovered. Because only a few random polling locations are audited, costs are kept low. Many people are surprised to learn that we don’t audit election results here in Massachusetts.

There need not be any big conspiracies or widespread failures to make audits worthwhile. Voting machines are just like any other machine. Sometimes they break. In Waterville, Maine, voting machine malfunctions caused a Senate candidate to receive 27,000 votes – about 16,000 more than the number of registered voters in the entire district. In Barry County, Michigan, flawed programming caused incorrect results. The problem was discovered only when a county clerk received the results from the precinct where he voted and noticed that the candidate for whom he voted for had received no votes.

In addition to providing security and confidence, audits provide information. Information that election officials can use to make sure every person’s vote is counted. Audits can uncover common voter mistakes that could be fixed with, for example, better instructions. Audits can tell election officials if a ballot has been poorly designed in a way many voters cannot understand, so that future ballots can be designed better.

Let’s make 2012 the year where all Massachusetts voters have confidence that their vote will be counted. There is audit legislation pending in the Legislature. Lawmakers should pass it in time for the November election. Elections matter. And every vote counts.

Ronald L. Rivest is a professor of computer science at MIT. He is a founder of RSA Data Security.

Charles Stewart III and Jonathan Katz elected fellows of the American Association of Arts and Sciences

Congratulations to Charles Stewart III and Jonathan Katz who were elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Charles and Jonathan join one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies and a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to Academy studies of science and technology policy, global security, social policy and American institutions, the humanities, and education.

Following are links to both press releases from MIT and Caltech:

http://www.amacad.org/news/pressReleaseContent.aspx?i=133
http://features.caltech.edu/features/163

The other people who have been part of the project who are already fellows are Ansolabehere, Palfrey, and Rivest.

MPSA 2011 Conference - Presentations by VTP Faculty, Affiliates and Students

Our Voting Technology faculty, affiliates and students will be presenting papers/posters, and several of our faculty will be sitting on panels at this year's Midwest Political Science Association Conference. Please visit the website for specific locations. Following are dates and times of the sessions for each VTP team member:

> Paper: The 17th Amendment and the Partisan Composition of the U.S. Senate, by Charles H. Stewart III, MIT and Wendy J. Schiller, Brown University. March 31, 2011/4:35pm

> Roundtable: Using Political Science to Understand the Democrats Surge and Decline: Charles Stewart will be a panelist. April 2, 2011/10:25am

> Charles Stewart will be Chairing the following session: Proximity Models: Moving beyond One Dimension on April 2, 2011/12:45pm

> Paper: Deciphering Declining: California's Decline to State Voters, by John Andrew Sinclair and Michael Alvarez, Caltech. March 31, 2011/2:40pm

> Roundtable: Graduate Methods Training in the Potential Outcomes Era: Moving Beyond Regression?. Michael Alvarez will be one of the Chairs on April 1, 2011/12:45pm

> Paper: Voter Choice under Instant Runoff Voting: An Empirical Analysis of the Rationality and Dimensionality of Candidate Rankings, by Ines Levin, Michael Alvarez, Caltech and Thad Hall, University of Utah. April 1, 2011/4:35pm

> Paper: How Emotional Reactions Alter Survey Responses, presented by Peter Foley, Ralph Adolphs and Michael Alvarez, Caltech. April 2, 2011/10:25am

> Paper: Uncertainty and Importance in Vote Choice, presented by David Peterson, Iowa State University and Michael Alvarez, Caltech. April 2, 2011/12:45pm

> Paper: Overseas Voter Satisfaction in 2010, presented by Clair M. Smith, Overseas Vote Foundation and Thad Hall, University of Utah. March 31, 2011/10:25am

> Paper: Voter Choice under Instant Runoff Voting... presented by Ines Levin, Michael Alvarez, Caltech and Thad Hall, University of Utah. April 1, 2011/4:35pm

> Paper: Measuring Changes in Voter Turnout and mobilization Patterns: The 2004 and 2008 U.S. Presidential Elections, presented by Morgan Llewellyn, IMT, Lucca. April 2, 2011/10:25am

> Paper: Uninformed but Opinionated Voters, presented by Peter Foley, Caltech. March 31, 2011/8:30am

> Paper: Optimal Defense Policy Under Domestic Constraints, 1815-1914, presented by John Andrew Sinclair, Caltech. March 31, 2011/10:25am

http://www.mpsanet.org/Conference/ConferenceProgram2011/tabid/583/Defaul...

39th Annual James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award Lecture

Tuesday, February 08, 2011
39th Annual James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award Lecture

Speaker: Professor Ronald L. Rivest, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Time: 4:00p–5:30p

Location: 10-250, Huntington Hall

Ronald L. Rivest, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science who helped develop one of the world's most widely used Internet security systems, is MIT's James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award winner for 2010-2011.

The award was announced at the faculty meeting on Wednesday, May 19. Established in 1971 as a tribute to MIT's 10th president, the Killian Award recognizes extraordinary professional accomplishment by an MIT faculty member.
Rivest, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), is known for his pioneering work in the field of cryptography, computer and network security.

Web site: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2010/rivest-wins-facultys-killian-award
.html

Open to: the general public

Cost: Free

Sponsor(s): Information Center, Provost's Office, Killian Award Committee

For more information, contact:
Joe Coen
617-253-5734
jcoen@mit.edu

This event is categorized as: lectures/conferences, science/engineering, institute events

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