Paper Trail

By Chris Nolan  |  Posted 2004-10-06 Print this article Print

So, ballot counting is no longer the exclusive purview of election officials, who are often constrained by budget problems, not all that familiar with the inner workings of most computers, wary and harried. Diebold, which is more accustomed to that state of affairs—one common before the 2000 presidential election and the comedy of errors that was ballot-counting in Florida—is under a new and newly intense kind of review in venues it doesnt know and likes even less. The result? Some name-calling. "Its what I call the technology-political information gap that Ive been staring at for years," Alexander says. Like many people with political experience, shes less worried about operating-system hacks and other computer security problems envisioned by the tech cognoscenti. To read about Kerrys vision for the tech industry, click here.
Alexanders critique of Diebolds and others touch-screen voting machines is instead more specific. She wants their machines to provide a paper record of votes cast, a record detailed enough and updated regularly enough to be audited if there are any problems. "When—its when, not if—things go wrong, you need that paper record," she says.
Diebold machines can provide paper trails, Bear says. And they are set up to be examined before and after votes are cast to ensure officials that theyre accurate and safe. But Alexander wants more—and recently got it in California. The state passed a law requiring machines such as those Diebold makes to provide more detailed paper auditing ability. This is the sort of action that all communities should consider, Alexander says. "No matter what voting systems we have, people will cheat," she says. That has to be anticipated not by better engineering but by better oversight, with examinations that everyone—even the less computer-savvy—can understand, Alexander says. "The county elections officials are in over their heads." Technology and Politics columnist Chris Nolan spent years chronicling the excesses of the dot-com era with incisive analysis leavened with a dash of humor. Before that, she covered politics and technology in D.C. You can read her musings on politics and technology every day in her Politics from Left to Right Weblog. Check out eWEEK.coms Government Center at for the latest news and analysis of technologys impact on government practices and regulations, as well as coverage of the government IT sector.

Standalone journalist Chris Nolan runs 'Politics from Left to Right,' a political Web site at that focuses on the intersection of politics, technology and business issues in San Francisco, in California and on the national scene.

Nolan's work is well-known to tech-savvy readers. Her weekly syndicated column, 'Talk is Cheap,' appeared in The New York Post, Upside, and other publications. Debuting in 1997 at the beginnings of the Internet stock boom, it covered a wide variety of topics and was well regarded for its humor, insight and news value.

Nolan has led her peers in breaking important stories. Her reporting on Silicon Valley banker Frank Quattrone was the first to uncover the now infamous 'friend of Frank' accounts and led, eventually, to Quattrone's conviction on obstruction of justice charges.

In addition to columns and Weblogging, Nolan's work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Republic, Fortune, Business 2.0 and Condé, Nast Traveler, and she has spoken frequently on the impact of Weblogging on politics and journalism.

Before moving to San Francisco, Nolan, who has more than 20 years of reporting experience, wrote about politics and technology in Washington, D.C., for a series of television trade magazines. She holds a B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University.


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel