History was made January 6, 2005. I had the privilege to be there and be part of it. For the first time in modern history, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate joined together to "object" to the outcome of a state presidential election result because of significant irregularities and questions about the integrity of the election process and vote results. Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones from Ohio and Senator Barbara Boxer from California raised the objection. Their objections were based on:
- Information about irregularities and uncontrolled practices provided by election poll workers and others.
- Complaints from voters who had inordinate waiting times in voting lines.
- Significant variation between exit poll data and tabulated results.
- Contacts from numerous citizens about problems documented in the Ohio and other state election results, and numerous calls and visits by concerned constituents.
I had the privilege to briefly meet with one of Senator Boxer's aides and other Senators' aides as well to share an information quality perspective on the broken processes. The objection led to a two-hour opportunity for each chamber to comment on their concerns or position. Several Senators spoke to the real need for significant improvement to the election processes. One Senator said he will be proposing legislation he called the "Federal Election Integrity Act." Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the comments included partisan responses. It was most unfortunate to hear a Senator call the debate a waste of "four hours time," even though most were not in the room for the debate and in light of the testimony that many voters waited in voting lines in the rain from four to 10 hours because of inadequate or broken voting machines in their precincts.
A Sampling of the 2004 Problems
My study of the problems documented in numerous states revealed that the problems in this election were just as prevalent and just as significant as they were in the 2000 election.
- Washington State has had multiple recounts, including belatedly discovered ballots that changed the outcome of the election.
- The possibility of 1,800 more votes in the King County, Washington Governor's race than registered voters.
- 46,000 people discovered to be registered to vote in both Florida and New York.
- 58,000 absentee ballots "disappeared" in Florida.
- 38,400+ Election 2004 incident reports have been filed (according to Verifiedvoting.org).
- Numerous irregularities and controversy in Ohio, including write-in votes allegedly incorrectly defaulting to one candidate when run through the voting machine.
- Voter registration problems and back-up paper ballot printing problems in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee.
- Provisional ballot problems, including rejection of two-thirds of Florida's provisional ballots.
- Electronic voting machine malfunctions, including people who saw their vote change from the candidate they selected to the other candidate.
- Electronic voting machine failures occurred this year in Georgia, Maryland, California and other states, but the companies that make or certify the machines refuse to discuss their flaws.
Become Involved in Election Reform
I thank Seth Johnson for letting me know about the coalition of groups of citizens concerned about significant brokenness in various election processes in November 2004. Seth felt I could help and asked me to write a letter about some of the issues. He sent that letter to election reform advocates along with my "Information Quality Mandate for Election Reform" article in which I analyzed numerous process failures and described 27 specific improvements to prevent inaccurate ballots and assure control of all election processes.1 While a few of those were implemented in the "Vote America Act," the majority have not yet been addressed or implemented. Several people contacted me and asked me to help them with their efforts to lobby Senators to join the House to raise an official objection to the significant problems in the presidential election in several states.
To get involved, become aware; visit www.infoimpact.com/page.cfm?pg=39 and link to election reform Web sites. Contact your Senators and Representatives to let them know how quality principles can help improve this most important election process. Join an "IQ Professionals for Election Integrity" interest group to actively participate in this important issue by sending an e-mail to Larry.English@infoimpact.com.
There are some general IQ lessons from this:
- If your first efforts at implementing IQ do not get traction, do not give up. Be persistent, continue to add value in what you do, and someday the breakthrough opportunity may pop up. Be prepared to exploit it when it does!
- Strike while the iron is hot. When you have a major IQ issue that gets the attention of management, jump on it and let management know you have a way to help the enterprise prevent recurrence of root causes of that problem. The issue will always be expressed as a "business" problem, not an information problem. Help management connect the dots.
- Help your organizations prevent a catastrophic information quality failure by becoming expert in process improvement and error-proofing the critical processes that can put your enterprise at risk.
What do you think? Let me know your suggested improvements for election reform at Larry.English@infoimpact.com.
1. English, Larry P. "Information Quality Mandate for Election Reform," DM Review, 4-part series, October 2001 - January 2002.
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