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Polling Place Pile-Up

Long lines at Denver traced to network logjam

November 13, 2006

1 Min Read
Polling Place Pile-Up

5:50 PM -- Here in Colorado, the story of last week's election was not just that Democrats control both houses of the state legislature plus the governor's mansion for the first time since JFK was president, but the ridiculously long lines outside polling places in Denver. Some voters had to stand in line till almost midnight to cast their vote. Many gave up.

The problem, it now seems, was a good old-fashioned network capacity logjam.

Briefly, Denver this year moved from a traditional precinct-based voting system, where everyone had to vote at their assigned polling place, to a "vote center" system where you could vote at any of 55 polling places across the city. A reasonable idea, except that instead of big hard-copy precinct logs, election officials had to check online databases to confirm voters' registrations.

Each voting center had only four to six laptops, running over T1 lines -- not nearly enough to handle the online traffic. Even when they got through, the downtown servers at the Secretary of State's office were badly overwhelmed. So the new electronic voting machines, widely feared to be insufficient, were not the culprit. As Scott McNeely might say, "It was the network, stupid."

As of today, they were still counting absentee ballots, and the Denver Election Commission's IT director had been placed on "administrative investigative leave."

Now, if they'd just had high-speed wireless LANs at all the voting centers connected to a citywide wireless broadband network…

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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