e-Talk Radio: Pressman, Roger, 14 November 2000


I haven't done everything, Carol, but I've tried to do enough so it makes life interesting.

Carol: Right. We went into break, and you were talking a little bit about some of the problems, I think.

Roger: Well, yeah, we were talking a little bit about the vote, and we were also talking a little about some of the potential solutions. And what I was trying to do was to first indicate what the requirements are. Whenever we look at software systems, you have to begin by identifying requirements. The problem, of course, is that there would be a vast array of requirements. And most of them would be political. It's very hard to mold those into technology solutions sometimes. But just to summarize what I said, the requirements would be ease of input, would be high accuracy, would be high degree of security, would be better collection mechanisms, better communication of the collected results, and a personal requirement that I think is important is more time to execute a choice. The issues involved in building a better voting system for the United States of America - number one would be cost. Are we willing to spend probably the billions of dollars that would be required for something that is so intermittent.

Carol: And right now it's a county-specific system, is it not?

Roger: Right. But I think what's going to be happening, what we're going to see happening politically is there's going to be a call, I suspect, and again, I'm not a political talking head, I don't know, but it would seem to me that some of the Washington politicians are now going to begin saying we need a national system. We need a consistent national system for collecting, inputting, collating, organizing and reporting the vote. That wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Carol: And that's a massive endeavor. When you look at the different types, there's the optical scan, there's the punchcards, there's the lever machines, the paper, electronic, a mixed hole thing, a data vote, then we've got our absentee…When I look at systems that are statewide, and then you go and you transpose that into another state. If you have a system that works in Arizona, California never can take it just off the shelf.

Roger: Well, and that's why I think if this happens, there's going to be legislation that will force California to take the vanilla system off the shelf. Like I said, this is a political issue. And because it's a political issue, there will be enormous wrangling over it. And probably because there'll be enormous wrangling over it, as often happens in the USA, nothing gets done. And as long as elections aren't close, there's no problem. We can live with the system we have for another 100 years. But if we have another election in some state like we're having in Florida, then all of a sudden all the warts and flaws of the system come out, and we have everybody looking bad. And that's the question we have to ask ourselves. Are we willing…This election, to use a meteorological metaphor, is sort of like a hundred-year storm. They talk about design for a one-hundred-year storm, assuming that the flood levels will never come up except once every 100 years. Well, it's sort of the same thing. This election is a hundred-year election, in essence. There's never been an election this close, to my knowledge. Certainly, the Kennedy-Nixon was not even nearly this close. So I mean the question is, do we design for a hundred-year election, or don't we?

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