Now that the polls have closed in Howard County I thought I’d post a few random comments on the primary election. Since I don’t know all that much about Howard County politics and the people involved in it, don’t expect anything that incisive or interesting, especially when it comes to “horse race” coverage. For that sort of thing I head over to Hoco Rising, Tales of Two Cities, 53 beers on tap, and other local blogs, and you should too. But if you’re sticking around . . .

As I previously noted, I don’t do political endorsements on this blog (not that anyone would care if I did), so (like Sarah) I’m not going to tell you who I voted for. However I can tell you that except for the nonpartisan Board of Education race I voted only for Democrats. (Very funny, Frank.) More seriously, I tried above all to follow the maxim, “First, do no harm.” So I didn’t vote for anyone about whom I knew absolutely nothing, even in a race where they were unopposed. In the races where you could vote for multiple candidates I didn’t always vote a full slate.

In those cases where I did vote, all other things being equal I showed a preference for those candidates who had some sort of online record and (ideally) an online presence. I mean, it’s been fifteen years and several elections since the Web became a mass medium; you’d think anyone serious about soliciting the support of the general public would have learned how to put up a basic web site by now. The personal touch is also nice; Jon Weinstein stopped by my house to drop off a flyer, and one of the Howard County Democratic Central Committee candidates even sent me a nice email explaining why they were running (and by doing so got my vote).

Speaking of the Democratic Central Committee: I’m very much a Z-list blogger, and my blog typically has well under 100 page views per day. Thus I was very surprised to find that my post on the Democratic Central Committee candidates (which I dashed off in a hour or two early Sunday morning) received over eight hundred page views; in fact, it was the most popular blog post I’ve ever done. A lot of the traffic came from Google searches, and in fact that post is currently the second item returned from a search for “Howard County Democratic Central Committee” (after the home page for the Central Committee itself).

My conclusion is that there are a fair number of Howard County Democrats who are interested in local party activities but aren’t necessarily plugged into existing organizations like the Columbia Democratic Club and the Western Howard Democratic Club. They’re apparently not getting enough online information from the existing Democratic organizations, and thus are willing to turn to a rank amateur for help. I’ll be interested to see how the number of people reading the blog post compares to the margin of victory for the successful Central Committee candidates.

A final thought: When I entered the voting booth and saw the electronic voting machine I remembered the good folks at the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation, whose mission is to “create publicly owned transparent, trustworthy voting technology for any US elections jurisdiction.” I was privileged to talk with the founders of OSDV when they were first getting it started, and I can confidently state that anyone who is interested in politics and especially anyone interested in the integrity of elections should familiarize themselves with the work OSDV is doing. (Locally DC CTO Bryan Sivak is a big fan; he subbed for Greg Miller of OSDV in giving a presentation at the recent Gov 2.0 Summit, and this election cycle DC is doing a pilot using OSDV technology to handle overseas ballots.)

The great thing about OSDV is that they are not focusing on isolated issues and trying to push a particular technology as a panacea. Instead they are looking at the entire elections process, from voter registration through to auditing of election results, and are doing so with the active participation of working election officials from around the country. And of course since they’re doing this as an open source project everything produced will be available to any jurisdiction at no cost, including full source code. Again, I urge you to check out their Trust the Vote project, and to consider donating some money or (if you’re an election official, software developer, or security expert) contributing your expertise to the project.

Sarah - 2010-09-15 11:43

I was going to do an entry along the same lines as the first half of your post! How do candidates not have at least a boilerplate page in this day and age? Using the free blogs out there, a volunteer (who could even work on their own schedule!), and an eight dollar domain name that redirects to the blog, any candidate can have a solid, pretty much free website. They would hit a crowd of people they currently are missing.

johngordonboyle - 2010-09-15 15:07

Frank, A correction: I’m a Z-list blogger. You’re at least a B-lister ;)

Jon Weinstein - 2010-09-22 18:11

Frank, It was nice to meet you. Despite the rainy weather, I enjoyed talking with you and many of your neighbors. I hope I earned your vote! Jon

hecker - 2010-09-23 23:17

Jon: Thanks for stopping by! Incidentally, you and Bob Flanagan were the only two candidates who canvassed my street, at least while I was home.