Trust the Vote

iPads and voter registration usability

Open Source Digital Voting Foundation’s John Sebes writes about watching new citizens complete voter registration application forms and the associated usability issues, especially for older, less tech-savvy demographic.

Voter ID and Civic Innovation

Since 2008, there has been a wave of voting law changes that impose barriers to the ballot box. Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a veteran of “Bloody Sunday,” called the new laws “the most concerted effort to restrict the right to vote since before the Voting Rights Act.”

The right to vote is being chiseled away by voter ID laws that require voters to show government-issued photo ID in order to vote.

Cost of Freedom Project Logo

In December, the Department of Justice blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law on the grounds it would make it harder for minorities to vote in violation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Mississippi and Texas voting ID laws also must be pre-cleared but Texas is not waiting. The Lone Star State filed a federal lawsuit in an effort to speed up a decision.

Strict photo ID requirements will be in place in at least five states – Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee and Wisconsin — In November. With Election Day less than nine months away, voters without an official photo ID cannot wait for the challenges to play out at the Justice Department and in the courts.

In Wisconsin, for instance, voters must navigate “The 4 Proofs.”

I am a founding member of the Election Protection Coalition. Still, looking at the infographic makes my head hurt. More worrisome, it discourages voters from completing the application process. So I presented the problem of TMI (read: disenfranchisement by design) at Random Hacks of Kindness and the Hackathon for Social Good. Citizen programmers developed solutions to quickly provide voters with information on how to get a voter ID.

During Social Week Washington, DC, I gave a demo of the Cost of Freedom web-based app developed by Kin Lane, API Evangelist for CityGrid.

Users in Wisconsin can forget about “The 4 Proofs.” Instead, in four clicks or less, they will be able to access information about the state’s voter ID requirements, how to obtain a certified copy of their birth certificate (the document that’s typically produced to establish one’s identity), and the location, hours and directions to the Office of Vital Records using public transit.

I also gave a live demo of the Cost of Freedom text-based app developed by Jack Aboutboul, Twilio’s API Evangelist. Twilio is making an in-contribution of text message services to promote voter education.

To commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we plan to launch the Cost of Freedom App on April 4, 2012.

I will post regular updates about the Cost of Freedom Project and other initiatives that are using civic innovation to protect the right to vote. The conversation about voter ID also gives us an opportunity to raise awareness about disruptive technologies in the public sector beyond election administration.

For more information, please visit us at Facebook.com/CostofFreedom. You can sign up to receive notice when the Cost of Freedom App is launched. Continue reading

Joomla

How Joomla is powering government

We’ve heard a lot about Drupal and WordPress in government, but not much about the open source platform Joomla. We asked Joomla External Communications Lead Sandra Ordonez to share how government is using it, its key features, how it compares to Drupal and WordPress and what governments are using it.

2011 GovFresh Awards entries and voting now open

Every day, tech-minded citizens across the country are doing good by their communities, literally geeking out about how they can help re-define the relationship government has with its citizens, using technology as a democratic tool to empower both.

Open government hackathons matter

Open government hackathons matter

The civic hackathon – a gathering (either virtual or physical) of technologists for a few days or weeks to build civic-themed software – remains one of the more durable manifestations of the open government movement.

Gov 2.0 guide to Plone

Plone is a secure and flexible open source content management system (CMS) for building all types of web sites and web applications. Supported by a vibrant developer community that is ranked in the top 2% of open source projects worldwide, a large number of domestic and international public sector organizations, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, rely on Plone to power their digital communications.

Introducing GovFresh Voice

One of the more striking ironies of the Gov 2.0 movement is that despite the development of scores of new technologies, protocols, platforms and networks for enabling sophisticated interactions between citizens and their governments, a large number of people prefer to interact with their government the way they have for a long time – using the telephone.

The future of the government forges

The GSA is currently planning forge.gov, which is widely assumed to be based on forge.mil, the much-discussed collaboration platform from the Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA. forge.mil is a pretty incredible idea: a single destination for testing, certification, and software development in the Defense Department.

Spook developer speaks!

I had a chance to talk with Matthew Burton, the former intelligence analyst turned open source cause celebre who just launched a tool that helps frame and understand arguments with imperfect evidence. It’s based on method called Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH), which has been around for quite some time. Matthew and his friend Josh Knowles, though, have a tool that allows the ACH method to be used by multiple participants simultaneously. It’s fascinating stuff, so I’m grateful that he took the time to talk with me.

Lockheed goes open source. Blankenhorn hates it.

I was really pleased to read the announcement that Lockheed Martin's social networking platform, EurekaStreams, was released as an open source project today. Lockheed is a very conservative company, and while they're happy to use open source internally and on projects for their customers, this is their first experiment with actually running a project themselves. I think it's a big deal, not just for Lockheed Martin, but for large corporations who are considering a more open, more innovative approach to software development. And yet, Dana Blankenhorn hates it:

Government, citizen developers join forces to build new Federal Register 2.0 Website

The Federal Register has launched a re-design of its Website, federalregister.gov. The new site is XML-based and was developed using open source code (now available on GitHub).

“The Daily Journal of the United States,” the FR is managed by the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) and serves as “the legal newspaper of the U.S. government and contains rules, proposed rules, and public notices of federal agencies, as well Presidential documents.”

A new model for public sector open source adoption using Drupal

The debate over whether open source software (OSS) is good for government is over. A close look will reveal the discussion has moved on to one of two things: 1) the necessary, but subsequent implementation questions to be sorted out – security, regulation, procurement, etc. or 2) organizational confusion about how to take the first step. In either case, the precedent of value has been established both within government and elsewhere to allow us to now move on to the natural next set of issues.

Open source matters to open government. Really.

“Open source and open government are not the same,” I’ve been reading recently. When discussing the role of open standards in open government transparency projects, Bob Caudill at Adobe, is concerned that open source and open standards are being conflated. He likes open standards just fine, but …

What the Open Government Directive Means for Open Source

On the heels of the Open Government Memo of January 21st, 2009, the Obama Administration has issued the Open Government Directive. The Directive tells agencies what they must do to meet the expectations set by the Memo. The directive names many deadlines for agency compliance, most of them around reducing FOIA backlogs and increasing the amount of agency data released to the public. This isn’t surprising, since the Memo names transparency, collaboration, and participation as the guiding principles. Transparency is the easiest to articulate and implement — just get the data out there in a useful form. Josh Tauberer’s Open Data is Civic Capital: Best Practices for “Open Government Data” is an excellent handbook for doing this. If you want to track agencies’ progress, the Sunlight Labs folks have produced the outstanding Open Watcher.