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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

joset01 12/5/2012 | 3:34:59 AM
re: Polling Place Pile-Up Given all the WiFi security issues recently the idea of casting votes over a WiFi connection worries me just a little.
frnkblk 12/5/2012 | 3:34:57 AM
re: Polling Place Pile-Up If I had to guess, it would be a VB application against an Access database....probably had to read/write the whole file every time.

Frank
somedumbPM 12/5/2012 | 3:34:55 AM
re: Polling Place Pile-Up ....Now, if they'd just had high-speed wireless LANs at all the voting centers connected to a citywide wireless broadband networkGǪ

Then the app would work just the same and instead of having a dedicated hardline such as a the T1 as bandwidth is not an issue.

You would have an app that already appears to already to have been setup as having a to communicate with the server or shared drive to get voter's data in order for them to be validated. Therefore if someone inserted himself as the middle man in this network - between the PC and sever/workstation, whose transport is physically accessible to all and available all the time to fiddle with in advance, they could edit the data as one sees fit or just capture the data for other purposes.

No biggie you only have a few thousand APs to take care of as the local govt IT dept - or would you like to contract that out to a private company like most municipalities want to - they have no political agenda do they?
somedumbPM 12/5/2012 | 3:34:55 AM
re: Polling Place Pile-Up I see this all of the time- people screaming...... it's the network!.....it's the network! Then you find out they have everyone using an "application" that is basically database on a shared drive that everyone is accessing at the same time.

I think this statement is very funny -

"Each voting center had only four to six laptops, running over T1 lines -- not nearly enough to handle the online traffic."

- as this is the typical response from application peeps and then when we look at the bandwidth it is <10% utilized. The packet sniff tell the real story of you wrote an app using a file share and tested it with 2 PCs. Guess what, it does not work the same with 200 PCs accessing the same file on a poor excuse for a server, usually just a workstation.

Lets see 6PCs/1.5M per s = 250k per s of constant bandwidth per PC before saturation. What do you think they are transferring.

farpoint 12/5/2012 | 3:34:42 AM
re: Polling Place Pile-Up Security is always a concern - and it always will and should be.

But let's look at Wi-Fi as just another channel. Assuming we put in place end-to-end (VPN-class) encryption and use two-factor authentication, the only real risk is in denial-of-service, either intentional or not. This implies that integrity management is the core issue, not security.

I'm personally looking forward to network (wireless or otherwise) voting. At my polling place last week, they didn't even ask for ID! Imagine - we need an ID to fly on a plane (even though the ID is never authenticated), but if someone wants to commit voter fraud they just walk in and do it. Is this a great country, or what?

Thx. Craig.
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