Posted by: Jack | October 9, 2008

Voter Registration System

Any business that handled its customers and information with the efficiency and accuracy seen in this country’s voter registration system would be immediately bankrupt and spending the remainder of its existence in court.

Fifty years ago this might be an understandable circumstance for a service that had to keep track of 300 million ‘customers’. For each individual, a record must be kept containing the following:

  • SSN
  • Name, date of birth (not really necessary as we are each uniquely identified by our SSN but not a bad idea either)
  • Current address
  • Flags that indicate eligibility to vote (convicted felon and the like)
  • Probably a few other things

For a specific election, another data set can relate your SSN to a flag indicating whether you’ve voted or not. And a simple little dataset can keep a tally of how many votes each candidate has received.

In respect to most physical things, 300 million is a big number. In a database, its not. The data set described above would probably fall somewhere within 50-100 GB (yeah, like on an iPod).

Setup a few redundant servers around the country to store this database — with standard security measures — and updates to the information could be instantaneous (by human perception).

Humans and paper forms are agonizingly slow, expensive and extremely prone to error (search any news site for ‘voter registration purges’). Computers are fast, cheap and precise. How is it that a fundamental system in our country’s democracy has been technologically surpassed by the likes of


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