Convergent Usability Evaluation, p. 2
EIRS was used by an army of volunteers
working in call centers across the US
In 2004, many American expressed growing unease about evidence that
U.S. elections might be compromised by fraud and undemocratic tactics.
While some problems were raised around access to polling places and
voter lists, the growing use of computerized voting machines also
intensified the public concern. Many experts warned that the machines
in use were not only vulnerable to fraud, but that misuse of such
machines may have already determined key elections -- problems that are
documented in an article The Nation published in August 16, 2004, "How They Could Steal the Election This Time," by Ronnie Dugger.
CPSR work on EIRS began in 2004
CPSR experts were among those not only raising the alarm, but
working to document and prevent fraudulent elections. As a key part of
that effort, in 2004 CPSR worked jointly with Verified Voting Foundation
and other organizations to develop a web-based system for recording
voting problems, which they called the Election Incident Reporting
System (EIRS). Funding came from a grant to both organizations
from the Quixote Foundation.
EIRS was developed on open-source platforms (PHP, PHP Surveyor,
MySQL, etc.) by a cadre of volunteers scattered around the U.S. A few
team-members from other countries (e.g., Germany and Australia) also
pitched in. The ERIS system was in continuous service from the
2004 Florida Primary through the November election.
Both the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under
Law (LC), and People for
the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) used EIRS to collect and
respond to election irregularities. On election day (Nov 2), 22
call-centers around the U.S. were in operation, staffed with volunteers
(mainly lawyers and para-legals). They took calls, recorded incidents,
helped callers solve problems immediately if possible, and triaged the
reports to determine whether they needed an immediate response.
All in all, over 40,000 incidents were recorded in 2004, most of them
on election day itself (Nov. 2). Much of the data from those incident
reports is available to the public at http://voteprotect.org. (To see the incidents, click the Maps/Research link on the home page, then click on the Election 2004 tab.)
EIRS team members observed the system in use on election day and
then conducted interviews of call-center volunteers and managers to
evaluate the performance of the system. This paper, which
describes the EIRS user-interface design process, was presented and
published at the ACM SIGCHI 2005 conference.
At the same time, CPSR also was active in protesting the misuse of
electronic voting machines, and submitted a Friend of the Court brief
in the "Wexler" case, an important Florida court case in which Florida
Congressman Robert Wexler alleged that electronic voting machines
used in Florida violate the constitutional right to Equal Protection
and Due Process, because the machines do not permit a meaningful
recount for close elections. We also supported lawsuits in Riverside
and Berkeley, California calling for review of Direct Recording
Electronic voting machines.
In the summer of 2005, PFAWF and LC asked the EIRS project team to simplify and improve EIRS for use in the 2005 elections, involving state and municipal offices in just a dozen states. Jeff Johnson was a
key member of this project. Call-volume was far lower (103 incidents
vs. 40,000), was proportional to the low number of voters (about one
one-hundredth as many voters as in 2004.)
The EIRS Team is now discussing plans for improving EIRS further for
the 2006 mid-term elections and beyond. Anyone interested in
being involved in that effort should, in early 2006, contact the EIRS
Project Leader, John McCarthy <john (a) verifiedvoting.org>. General
information about EIRS is posted at Verified Voting Foundation's website.
CPSR is also evaluating other ways to get involved in preventing election fraud that stems from the misuse of voting technology.
Last modified December 22, 2005 05:38 PM