Take two minutes to open up election results to everyone.

Even if it is kicking and screaming, you now have the chance to help bring the City Government one step closer to the modern age, by forcing them to provide all citizens with access to electronic voting results. But, first, for those who have not been following this, here is a quick recap of where we are:

  • The City Commissioners publish election returns online, behind a firewall, where only a small group of people can view them.
  • I requested a password, which they denied, stating that their system only allows 150 people to be online at once. (They also mentioned they are getting in a new shipment of slide rulers, and that their dictaphone needs repairs.)
  • Vince Fumo alone has 10 of those 150 passwords
  • The City Solicitor granted my appeal, ruling that password protecting election results for your buddies is in violation of any notion of open government and the PA Open Records law. So, I have my password. Maybe they thought this would end the whole thing? If so, they severely underestimated how annoying I am.

Does me having a password really get us anywhere closer to the goal of open access for everyone? Not really, but, the ruling from the City Solicitor does, and that is where you come in. Today, in partnership with Hallwatch and with help from Philly for Change, we are launching a faxbank, where with the City Solicitor's ruling in hand, you can send in your own open records request to the City, asking for your own password.

Here is the basic idea: If the City Commissioners want to plead technological incompetence, we are going to use the ruling from the City Solicitor to force their hand. If we can get 25, or 50, or 100 people to request their own passwords, the Commissioners will be forced to make a decision: Take the small, easy step of putting election results online for all Philadelphians, or take away electronic access for their buddies.

Which do you think they will choose?

But, this only will work if you help. So, can you take 2 minutes and to open up Philadelphia government, and then spread the word? Click here, and lets get this done.

Election results are not supposed to be a perk for the connected few. And they should not fall under a constituent service. This. is. a. democracy. These. are. election. results.

Filling out a request is incredibly easy, and the City has to respond to you within 30 days. Please fill one out, spread the word to any and all who might be interested, and of course, let us know how the office responds.

16 letters already. Nice.

16 letters already. Nice.

101 people have requested

101 people have requested passwords so far. By 10:45, on a Friday, in the summer. That is awesome.

Symbolically, it would be awesome if we could get up to more than 150 people.

152, baby

And counting.

-Sean
MrLuigi, my cat, actually only types half as badly as I do.

Q?

Just wondering? What would prevent a citizen from posting the password for public use? I made my request.

It can only be used one

It can only be used one person at a time. So, the entire general public would be standing in one line waiting to get on line.

To be frank

And Dan can correct me, but with the password you are actually accessing their actual database - which technically makes them vulnerable to hacking - at least in theory. Its not that Fumo is using his 10 passwords to change votes because presumably he does not have admin priveleges, but posting the password publicly does open certain security risks. Really thats a lousy way to run things. Instead they should set it to auto-export results to a separate secure website that could be available to anyone not just 150 and keep the actual results secure- or at least thats how I understand it.

Also it should be noted that the website for the vendor for the software the Commissioner uses specifically advertises that it easily exports data to the web - as Dan mentioned in the previous thread.
-Sean
MrLuigi, my cat, actually only types half as badly as I do.

OMFG

ETA: I see from an earlier post that the City is actually letting candidates access the "vote system" directly. INSANE.

2nd ETA: WHY isn't the City directing the software vendor to allow indirect data export of the data so the City can set up a separate public website, which requires NO login?

Now, no SANE person would give write access to their decision database out openly over the Internet.

Methinks this is a reporting database which you are given access to see, which may not even be the actual system that is recording the votes itself.

At least, I hope not. If the EB is allowing candidates to access vote collection systems directly, then this would be a very serious breech of public trust.

Elections officials should be obligated to provide a half-way decently updated reporting copy of the database.

If they can't make a decent reporting database available, then pay some high school kid to export the data out to some common format such as CSF/Access/Berkeley-DB, and let the public parse the raw data itself... much like Hallwatch does with public property record data.

The vendor's website claims

The vendor's website claims this database only has "32-bit" encryption, whatever that means.

Uhm, there are relatively FEW data encryption algorithms out there, PKE or not, where a 32-bit phrased-cipher is good enough for something like election results, especially in a city as corrupt as ours is.

...

I don't know the general public that you know, I guess. Us democracy geeks being a small subgroup of geekdom in general, there might, MIGHT be, at the height of election "excitement," four or five people "waiting" in virtual "line" (at home, drinking a cold lager, watching the Sopranos box set on the hi-fi). So, would it violate some law to release the password to the general, democratic, geekdom?

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I just wanna take a minute

and say how awesome hallwatch.org is. It's so awesome, such a great thing that we are lucky to have.

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