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Home » Transparency Technology for Democratic Elections: Larry Moore at TEDxBeaconStreet (Transcript)

Transparency Technology for Democratic Elections: Larry Moore at TEDxBeaconStreet (Transcript)

Larry Moore – TRANSCRIPT

I’m here today to talk about election transparency. And to answer and to bring to your attention a technology that I think will answer a seemingly intractable problem, one that’s very difficult for your mind to even get around and it is this: in a close election where hundreds of thousands of ballots have been cast, what technology could be brought to bear to allow election officials charged with deciding the election to see the result and to know that every vote that was cast was counted as intended.

And to do that in just a few minutes. So how would that be possible? Six years ago, my only connection with elections was as a voter. I was surfing the channels, I had a clicker, and I landed on an HBO documentary called “Hacking Democracy.” And in dark tones, this documentary cast doubts on the integrity and the legitimacy of the 2000 presidential election in Florida. And in a dramatic demonstration at the end, the count of the vote was shown that it could be manipulated and the outcome changed.

Well for me, this was like a small earthquake. And I thought that all of the assumptions that I had about the underpinnings of democracy were at that moment shaken a little bit. And though I now realize that that was a highly sensationalised video, it did get me thinking. But I continued to think about that video. And about two years later, someone pointed me in the direction of an experiment that was done in Humbolt County, California.

There, about 100 miles south of the Oregon border, a team of passionate citizens interested in election transparency teamed up with the county clerk to conduct an experiment with a very interesting idea. So here’s what they did. They scanned the ballots that the voters voted, there was about 60,000 of them, and they put the images on the Internet and from there, they let citizens count the vote. And I was really fired up. And in that “Hacking Democracy” video, that never left my brain, I remembered that there was this one guy, Ion Sancho, who organised this dramatic demonstration at the end of that video.

And so I called him up right out of the blue and I told him about what I’d learned in Humbolt — he was very curious because he had heard about it too — and I started hinting around, wouldn’t it be cool if I could get some of your ballots to scan. I’m pretty sure he thought me nuts. He said, “You know, when you’re ready I’ll give you access to the ballots.” And so in June 2009, I found myself on Railroad Ave in Talihassee, Florida having rented a scanner, hired an operator, and at the end of 8 days, I had a disk drive that had the images of 150,000 ballots from the general election in Leon County of 2008.

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