March 3, 2009 By Andy Opsahl
After an election, it's not unusual for a few voting irregularities to pop up that leave observers scratching their heads. Even more frustrating to voters are the dumbfounded looks on the faces of election officials when these problems happen.
Many officials who struggled in 2008 will likely look to a man with much more of a clue on the matter -- David Macdonald, IT director and registrar of voters in Alameda County, Calif. In 2007, Macdonald implemented a radio-frequency identification (RFID) paper-ballot tracking system, aimed at avoiding some of the ballot-tampering problems that have plagued other counties.
Whenever a ballot box changes hands, someone should record the exchange on paper, which election workers often forget to do, Macdonald said.
"We have 831 polling places with almost 6,000 poll workers. That guarantees someone's going to forget something," Macdonald said. Gaps in the chain-of-custody record raise suspicions about potential monkey business.
To alleviate those concerns, Alameda County attaches an RFID tag to each box of paper ballots on Election Day. Memory packs that contain the ballot totals for each box -- therefore allowing for cross checking -- also receive RFID tags.
"The project has worked magnificently well. It allows us to identify early on if something is missing on Election Day," Macdonald said.
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.