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Roy G. Saltman:
"Failed Federalism Fueled the Florida Fiasco: Will Fighting Over the Fix Fail the Future?"

Tuesday, April 6, 2004, 1:00 PM EST

Bartos Theatre, MIT Media Lab (E15)

This talk will discuss the difficulties in election administration that became public knowledge as a result of the Presidential election in Florida in 2000. These problems, to a large extent, resulted from the structural arrangement imposed by the 1789 Constitutional division of powers between the federal government and the states, and the devolution of responsibility from the states to their local governments. The history, politics, and technology of the voting process will be reviewed, including its long tradition of questionable actions and results. Remnants of the spoils system that continued to exist furthered the 2000 debacle.

The November 7, 2000 disaster was to election administration as September 11, 2001 was to homeland security. It took Congress two years to adopt the Help America Vote Act. The issue preventing earlier compromise was requirement for new voter registrations. A current brouhaha is over the demand, championed by computer scientists, for a requirement for a "paper audit trail" written into law. Such a requirement would mean that direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems could not be used. The paper trail proponents are opposed by many election administrators and advocates of independent voting for the visually impaired. The latter ability effectively demands the use of DRE equipment.

Roy Saltman has worked in the field of election policy and technology for over 30 years. His 1975 report, "Effective Use of Computing Technology in Vote-Tallying," was supported by the US General Accounting Office and published by his employer, later known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This report "laid the groundwork" for the effort on voting system standards by the Federal Election Commission. His 1988 report, "Accuracy, Integrity and Security in Computerized Vote-Tallying," also published by NIST, was supported by the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation. After the 2000 Presidential election, the report was widely cited in the media for its statement that "the use of pre-scored punch card ballots should be ended."

Since retiring from NIST in 1996, he has consulted for the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Foundation for Election Systems, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Science Foundation. In 2001, he contributed to the work of the National Commission on Federal Election Reform, the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, and the Constitution Project of Georgetown Law School. His brief for the American Civil Liberties Union in 2003 to delay the California recall election was cited in the supporting decision of the 3-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. He has testified to a special committee of the State of Maryland and to the US House of Representatives Committee on Science. He is writing a book on the history, politics and technology of the voting process to be published in 2005.

CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project and Ted Selker

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