Another open letter to Larry Ellison<

Summary:This year's rather one sided polls in the American election suggest that vote cheating won't affect many outcomes - but races in 2012 may be tighter and reducing the uncertainties this creates for the economy is both a technology and a leadership challenge.

Dear Mr. Ellison:

Re: The opportunity in political uncertainty and concerns over voting fraud in 2012

It now appears likely that the coming American mid term elections will hand control of both houses of Congress to people who are strongly motivated to reverse policies whose effects they see as creating and extending the current depression while weakening and degrading the American idea. What is less obvious is that the effect the changes they make have on the economy depends a lot on the degree to which they're able to convince the smaller players whose collective decisions determine American prosperity that the change in direction is stable, longer term, and "for real" - what they'll have to do to really succeed, in other words, is get people to believe that the 2012 election results will uphold and extend the renewed commitment to democracy, the rule of law, and American exceptionalism represented by tea party candidates today.

I'm sure, Mr. Ellison, that you have many opportunities, both as an individual and as the leader of your company, to contribute to your country; but I'd cheerfully bet thousands of my own dollars that none exceed in scope and significance the opportunities you have in helping clean up voting fraud and the consequent electoral and economic uncertainties across your country and around the world.

Patriotism, not party loyalty, counts here
I'm Canadian; but if I were American, I'd be a Republican and a tea partier - so of course I write from that viewpoint. In this case, however, it shouldn't matter: Republicans believe that Democrats cheat, and Democrats reflexively accuse Republicans of it - but this blog isn't about who cheats most: it's about using Oracle's technology to reduce the cost of elections while ensuring that all legitimate voters are fairly and accurately represented in the outcomes.
There's a hidden message here too: IT management is not about technology - it's about what you can do with it and for whom.

Obviously the actual processes of getting the solutions sold and then making them all work across thousands of affected governing bodies - at the state, territory, agency, municipal, county, and school levels - are going to be seriously non trivial; but the core ideas are almost trivial in their simplicity and straightforwardness.

The goal is a single system - parts of which can be used independently at any time to handle voting on state or local issues but which, in operation during national elections, uses an Apache/DB style application presented via Sun Rays installed in schools and offices to collect the vote at local, state, and national levels: all in near real time, all with clear auditability, and all at a few percent of today's cost of running elections at similar scales.

Sun Ray is not a client -thin or otherwise
This idea stands on two techno-facts:

  1. Sun Ray is not a client. There is no program execution on the Sun Ray and so no opportunity to falsify its operation. An expert called into court to testify on the security of any locally programmable voting device, no matter how cleverly designed, has to say "Yes" when asked whether it is theoretically possible to make the thing cheat - and "no" when asked the same question about a Sun Ray.

    Basically, electoral officials have to secure a few servers in controlled environments, not thousands of voting devices spread across hundreds of polling stations and managed by people who break them out of warehouses for a few days once every two years.

  2. the server based nature of the voting application breaks the link between voter and polling place. Thus most absentee/advance voting will disappear, and someone posted to outer timbucktoo can vote at the local PX in the same time frame, on the same ballot, and with the same convenience as his mother votes at her local school.

The selling strategy is to leverage concern at all levels over the risk of voter fraud in the 2012 elections to gain support for the concept; leverage state, county, and school board cost and privacy concerns along with existing Oracle software to get the Sun Rays installed, supported, and in daily use in schools and offices; leverage national process support to work with local and state level officials to get voter registration issues resolved; and then use state and local votes to debug the voting and vote management processes needed.

With Al Franken smugly in the senate to serve as an exempla horribilis and Dino Rossi quite possibly in the chamber with him, national political support for anything offering a smart, integrated, solution that increases confidence in voting outcomes while reducing cost and risk is as close as politics gets to a gimme - and not a single conservative is going to forget that every apparatchik tactic there is, from fake polls, ACORN registrations, and voter intimidation to the more traditional kinds of manipulation and messaging exemplified in the headlines listed below, will be deployed against the right in 2012.

Illinois Soldiers Wait for Ballots. Prisoners Get Hand Delivery.

Cincinnati Public Schools accused of voter bribery

Michelle Obama Illegally Campaigns INSIDE Polling Place

At the local level, and particularly at the county and school board levels where you most need support to get these systems into place, your salespeople should meet an eager audience - and for two main reasons:

  1. for these people, costs count - a lot. Once they understand that the people advising them not to do the deal are the people who benefit most from keeping the wintel gear in place, all your people will have to do is make the five year combined cost and security case -and that's an easy case to make.

  2. for many of these jurisdictions, the people making this decision will have personally experienced the horrendous pressure the democratic national policy of suing everybody remotely in sight on close losses puts on electoral officials - and because you'll be offering them an option that sidesteps much of the mess, any sales program offering the excuse and comfort of national action will have them stampeding to sign up.

The bottom line, Mr. Ellison, is that people like Catherine Engelbrecht and her friends need your help - and helping them reduce the uncertainties introduced by the expectation of voting fraud in 2012 will be good for the country, good for your company, and good for you.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Legal, Oracle

About

Originally a Math/Physics graduate who couldn't cut it in his own field, Paul Murphy (a pseudonym) became an IT consultant specializing in Unix and related technologies after a stint working for a DARPA contractor programming in Fortran and APL. Since then he's worked in both systems management and consulting for a range of employers inc... Full Bio

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