April 30, 2009

Does The TV Show "Parks And Recreation" Really Look At The Inside World of Local Government? I Think Not!

THERE HAVE been a lot of TV shows about government. Spin City, LA Law and The FBI to name a few. And now there is a new show about local government called Parks and Recreation. It stars Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones.

Parks and Recreation is billed as a new mockumentary that looks inside the world of local government. The cameras follow Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler from Saturday Night Live fame), the Deputy Director of the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Indiana. The thirty minute comedy airs Thursday nights on NBC.

The reviews for the show haven't been that kind. Tom Shales of the Washington Post says of the show "called the show "a too-obvious imitation of the network's imported hit "The Office," and complained that "NBC has managed to come up with a prime-time network sitcom that suffers from an excess of subtlety -- a flaw so utterly unprecedented that it has considerable novelty value on its own."

Robert Bianco of USA Today said "came down hard on the show saying, "What you find in Parks and Recreation is a style in search of a show. Worse yet, it's not even a new style, or one that seems particularly well-suited to the character being played by the star, Saturday Night Live's Amy Poehler."

While those reviews are critical, the New Yorker recently featured a flattering article on the show's star, Amy Poehler, entitled the Cockey Optimist. Nancy Franklin starts that article by asking, "Is there a more appealing performer on television than Amy Poehler? Yes, "appealing" sounds bland and unappreciative, and it's unspecific, but the radiance and the warmth that come from Poehler are general and broad in the best way, and they offer a universal welcome."

The first episodes contain a lot of good scenes and quotable quotes - here are a few:

“You know, government isn’t just a boy’s club anymore. . . . It’s a great time to be a woman in politics—Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, me, Nancy Pelosi.”

"My idea for the perfect government would be Chuck E. Cheese. They know how to run things."

"I hate the public. The public is stupid."

My mother is “as respected as Mother Teresa, she’s as powerful as Stalin, and she’s as beautiful as Margaret Thatcher.”

"Committees are the lifeblood of our democracy."

"City hall is like a locker room - you gotta get in there and snap the towels."

"All government is a waste of money."

"I lost my optimism for government in two months."

"Don't go the extra mile - it's what I want in a government employee."

"My idea of a perfect government is one guy who sits in an empty room and he decides who to nuke."

And so it goes.

I wonder if cops watch Southland - if crime lab people watch CSI, if lawyers watch Boston Legal and if doctors watch House?

Does anyone in local government catch Parks and Recreation?

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Mulltiple Tabs: Washington State Nearly Ready For All Mail Elections, Obama's First 100 Days Online & CNN's National Report Card

SOMETIME AGO, the Washington State Legislature gave counties permission to decide whether to switch to all vote-by-mail, nearly every one has made the move. The last two holdouts of the 39 counties have been populous King (Seattle) and Pierce (Tacoma).

King County has announced that it will no longer use poll sites. And Pierce County might go the same way in time for this year’s August primary and November general election.

In other Washington election news, the state, through SB 5599, has agreed to join a compact of states that commit themselves to casting their electoral votes for the White House ticket that wins the national popular vote. Right now, the state’s 11 electoral votes go, winner-take-all, to the ticket that carries Washington. The state is the fifth state to join the compact, with a total of 61 electoral votes. Once states representing 270 electoral votes join the compact — the minimum need to win the White House – the change would occur. In some cases, it would mean Washington’s votes are awarded to a ticket other than Washingtonians preferred. (Bush 41 and Bush 43 being two recent examples out of nine since statehood.)

The big news yesterday, of course, was Obama's press conference as his 100th day in office passed. CNN carried a "grading extravaganza" called The National Report Card: The First 100 Days" where viewers graded the performance of the president and other government officials as well as the media's coverage of the administration. You can find a summary of the Report Card here.

Other 100 day news came from Macon Phillips, the White House Director of New Media. He gave a summary of the President's first 100 days online here.

And speaking of electronic government, evidently public satisfaction with government Web sites have slipped some. This dip may be the result of great expectations for tech-savvy President Obama. Read about their views here.

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April 29, 2009

Google Unveils New Tool To Dig For Public Data

GOOGLE LAUNCHED a new search tool designed to help Web users find public data that is often buried in hard-to-navigate government Web sites.

The tool, called Google Public Data, is the latest in the company's efforts to make information from federal, state and local governments accessible to citizens. It's a goal that many Washington public interest groups and government watchdogs share with President Obama, whose technology advisers are pushing to open up federal data to the public.

The company plans to initially make available U.S. population and unemployment data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, respectively. Other data sets, such as emissions statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency, will roll out in the coming months.

Read More >

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U.S. Public Service Academy

THE U.S. Public Service Academy will be the civilian counterpart to the military service academies, a flagship institution designed to build a "more perfect union" by developing leaders of skill and character dedicated to service in the public sector. At the Academy, more than 5000 students will get a federally-subsidized undergraduate education focused on service and leadership development, followed by five years of service in public sector jobs following graduation. The Academy will develop a new generation of top-quality civilian leaders and will help transform the way Americans perceive, prepare for, and pursue public service.

Learn More >

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April 28, 2009

Google Maps Mashup Tracks Swine Flu

LAST NIGHT'S news cycle was inundated with stories about the Swine Flu outbreak. Concerns seem to be growing and cases of swine flu were confirmed early today in Israel and New Zealand, the first definitive proof that the virus has spread to the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions.

The World Health Organization yesterday raised its pandemic threat level from 3 to 4, two levels below a full-scale pandemic.

If you want to follow outbreak reports, Google Maps mashup does the job. The pin markers below have codes. They are: Pink markers are suspect; Purple markers are confirmed; Deaths lack a dot in the marker; and Yellow markers are negative.

View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map.

Swine Flu frequently asked questions here.

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April 27, 2009

NJ Supreme Court Rules That Bulk Requestor Must Pay Redaction Costs

In a five to two decision, released today, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that Bergen County is allowed to redact any social security numbers that may exist in about eight million pages of land records before releasing them to the requestor and that the cost of redaction must be borne by the requestor.

In a dissent, two Justices argued that while the county could redact the social security numbers, OPRA does not allow it to pass the redaction cost to the requestor.

The following sentence is quoted from the dissent: "Today's majority opinion will significantly close the door to the Open Public Records Act and potentially have far-reaching adverse consequences to the dissemination of information maintained in state governmental offices."

The decision is on-line here >

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April 26, 2009

One Election Official's Efforts To Build See-Thru Democracy Using Web 2.0

I NEED some help. Perhaps you could take a minute or two and read through this proposal which I plan to submit for consideration to the Gov2.0 Summit Conference. Your comments and thoughts would help me better tailor the proposal, make it more useful for the conference attendees and best of all, potentially help me land a spot on the conference agenda.

I appreciate the help!

Kindly leave your comments on this blog site or send your suggestions to warren@warrenslocum.com - thank you in advance.

Here is the "draft" of my conference proposal.

To rephrase Barack Obama’s campaign platform on technology and tailor it to the world of elections, I would say that, "We must use all available technologies and methods to open up the election process, creating a new level of transparency to change the way business is conducted in each and every election office in America, and giving Americans the chance to participate in election deliberations and decision-making in ways that were not possible only a few years ago.

All kinds of election reform ideas surfaced after the 2000 election cycle. More ideas made their way to the forefront after the melt down of many electronic election systems that were purchased in the rush after the passage of the Help America Vote Act. Some of the older reform ideas include using a paper trail on electronic voting machines to a recent idea of creating a “Democracy Index” that would rank election office performance on various measures. Other ideas that have come up include a return to paper ballots, a move toward Instant Run-off elections, photo identification at the polls and expanded audits of elections.

But many of those reforms rely on the federal or state government for legislation, funding or both. Most involve large scale change which is often slow in coming - especially given the partisan nature of legislatures. And election administrators have not exactly been strong supporters of election reform.

How could election reform be deployed rapidly, without large intervention efforts, partisan based legislative changes and/or costly new programs? How could citizens have greater peace of mind to know that their vote was counted properly? How could they know that the election was conducted honestly? How, after all the votes were totaled, could anyone say - I understand how the process works? What does election administration 2.0 look like? How is it different than what has traditionally been called election administration? In short, how could election reform happen from the bottom up rather than the top down and help build a new paradigm - “see-thru democracy?”

One election official interested in election reform, citizen engagement and Web 2.0 technologies did just that rapidly and without great cost - he deployed a series of of innovations that increased transparency, fixed accountability and brought everyday citizens into the election process.

This proposal describes one elections office in California and how it has fundamentally reshaped election administration by using Web 2.0 tools and technology. It illustrates how a “see-thru democracy” can be created using some free tools as well as other low cost resources.

Specifically, the proposed session is created for the Gov2.0 Summit: The Platform for Change Conference (sponsored by O’Reilly and Techweb). It would describe and show examples of this effort of how San Mateo County, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, reached out to voters using web 2.0 technology--spreading transparent, two-way communication and information--building community.

What did we offer? Voter access to their registration status, sample ballot, track & confirm receipt of vote by mail ballots, polling place look ups, an Inside Election blog, Warren Slocum's New Democracy blog, Election News Now on Twitter, photos on Flickr, democracyLive! on Facebook, YouTube videos, live web cams, a video gallery, RSS, election night results presented in creative, useful ways, poll worker sign-ups and instructional materials and much more. The most leading edge effort from the Presidential General Election - a project that had never been done in America, “Anatomy of Election ‘08” - a live election night broadcast that showed in real time various election processes. That broadcast had a potential of reaching over 100,000 households.

Where is San Mateo County Elections going next? Headlong toward the mobile PDA world of community and communication - expanded use of online video and greater transparency into election processes.

What does the future hold for this type of change? The presenter postulates that legislators take notice of successful local projects and subsequently get those efforts into state law. Thus creating citizen centric election reform from the bottom up, rather than the top down and along the way creating “see-thru democracy.”

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April 25, 2009

21st Century Crowbars Help Pry Open Government

FROM NPR - The Obama administration has ushered in a new era of transparency in government. It has set up a Web site where people can track how the hundreds of billions of dollars in the economic stimulus plan are being spent, and Obama promises that in the years to come, citizens will have much more access to information about what the government is doing.

The shift is also changing the way government watchdogs do their jobs.

Clay Johnson is the 21st century version of the government watchdog. He is not hunkered down in a stuffy office, crunching data and releasing reports. As the director of Sunlight Labs, part of the Sunlight Foundation, Johnson focuses on technology — Web sites and applications that put government information in the hands of everyone.

Sunlight's most recent project, called Apps for America, was a contest for the best new Web application.

"The winner for both the contest and best name in the universe is an app called Filibusted, which is awesome," Johnson says.

Go to Filibusted.us, and you'll find pictures of the senators who have voted the most often to stall debate. Click on a picture, and you'll get a list of those votes and what the senator was trying to throw roadblocks in front of.

Another winning application, at Legistalker.org, lets people keep track of any member of Congress with just a couple of clicks. You can see what's on Twitter, what's on YouTube and even what lawmakers are saying in old-school media such as newspapers and TV.

transparency is leading to
a new era
of citizen involvement


That's just the beginning, Johnson says. He says his favorite app is called
Know Thy Congressman. Using the widget, you can highlight the name of a senator or congressman in anything you're reading online, click a button that says KTC, and up pops a window with a wealth of data on that politician.

The information includes the number of bills they've co-sponsored as well as bills they've debated and enacted; top campaign contributors; and photographs and articles online. It's like an entire research project right at your fingertips — anyone's fingertips — for free.

There are dozens of other applications. And most of the people who came up with these new tools don't work for government watchdog groups, and they're not investigative journalists. They're mostly just young, politically aware and web-savvy. The Sunlight Foundation thinks of itself as simply the spark.

"This is a new realm, which a lot of people in the political arena have not yet come to grips with," says Andrew Rasiej, founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, an annual conference on the intersection of politics and technology. "And it has massive implications for reorganizing what our perception of governance really is in our society."

Rasiej says that because of these new watchdogs, like the Sunlight Foundation, OpenCongress.org and OpenSecrets.org, citizens are coming to expect easy access to information. For example, when Obama announced that the government had set up a Web site to track stimulus money, Recovery.gov immediately started getting 3,000 hits a second — and the number of visitors goes up every day.

That's not to say a shift toward open information in government is going to be easy. There are dozens of agencies and hundreds of people who will have to adopt a new attitude if it's going to work. But the White House is making more and more data available to outside groups every day, and Johnson sees this as a natural progression.

"We live in a society now where if it's not on the Internet, it doesn't exist," he says, adding that transparency is leading to a new era of citizen involvement. "The more transparent we make government, the more people can participate in it. And when people participate in it, they're no longer apathetic about it. So transparency kills apathy."

That's exactly what motivates Johnson, as he and other young watchdogs use their 21st century crowbars to pry open the government.

Listen to the program, "21st Century Crowbars Help Pry Open Government" here.

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April 24, 2009

No Polling Places or Lines in Honolulu's First All Mail Election

Without polling places or lines, Hawaii's first all-mail election Thursday filled a vacancy on the Honolulu City Council with J. Ikaika Anderson emerging victorious.

Never before has any citywide or statewide election in the state been conducted entirely using mail-in ballots.

Voters chose from 11 candidates in the winner-take-all special election for the Windward Oahu seat that became empty when City Councilwoman Barbara Marshall died Feb. 22 from colon cancer at age 64.

Anderson, who garnered 12,582 votes, or 49 percent the votes cast, was Marshall's longtime aide, and had the endorsement of her husband, Cliff Ziems. Former City Councilman Steven Holmes placed second with 3,612 votes.

The council has jurisdiction over all of Oahu and its 900,000 residents.

The convenience of mailing a no-postage-required ballot is expected to improve voter turnout after Hawaii had the lowest voting rate in the country during November's general election with only about 51 percent of eligible voters casting ballots.

Read More >

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April 23, 2009

Democracy On Facebook Yields Dismal Voter Turnout

FACEBOOK INVITED the 200 million people who regularly use the site to vote on its governing documents. The company launched the vote after concerns erupted about who controls users' personal information. The site gave its members until Thursday to choose either the current terms of use, or a revised set of documents that reflect input from users over the past 30 days.

However, Facebook said the vote would be binding only if 30 percent of the site's active users voted. That would be 60 million people.

On Thursday morning, a vote on the site revealed that about 609,000 Facebook residents had cast ballots.

That dismal turnout doesn't speak well for the health of Democracy on Facebook.

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Minnesota Election Technology Conference

THE INNOVATIONS in Election Technology Conference sponsored by the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, originally planned to be held in April, is now scheduled for Thursday, May 28 and Friday, May 29, 2009. The conference will focus on electronic poll books, optical scan voting systems and election night reporting. Registration is $175 and includes meals and materials. For information, call 612.625.2550.

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The Election Center Solicits Papers For Professional Practices Program

THE ELECTION Center is soliciting papers for its 2009 professional practices program. The papers should describe state and local board of election best practices employed during the 2008 election cycle. The winning papers will be honored at the Election Center annual conference, August 11-14, 2009, in San Diego, California.

The deadline for submission is May 22, 2009. Professional practice papers must be submited in both electronic and paper formats and should include a cover sheet. State submissions should be addressed to the National Association of State Election Directors. Local submissions should be addressed to the Election Center Professional Education and Certification Board's Professional Practices Committee. Electronic copies should be emailed to the four members of the professional practices committee.

The professional practices program allows elections officials to share their best practices and innovative programs. Awards will be presented in the following categories: Democracy Award for the best practice; Freedom Award for innovation; Minute Man Award for practices that are quick or inexpensive to implement; Stars and Stripes Award for outstanding partnerships; and Eagles Award for the use of technology.

For more information, go here. >

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April 22, 2009

Online and Phone Voting Comes To Honolulu

MORE AND more online voting projects are being undertaken in the United States and all of these elections have one thing in common. They are not official, binding public elections but rather elections to boards, unions, commissions or political parties. Now The Honolulu Neighborhood Commission Office has joined the "online voting movement" by entering into a contract with San Diego-based Everyone Counts, Inc. for online voting services in the 2009 Neighborhood Board elections.

Eligible voters will be mailed a unique voter I.D. number that they will need along with the last four digits of their social security number in order to access their ballot through a secure website. The mailer will include a list of three locations where the NCO is placing public computers.

For those that cannot access the Internet, Everyone Counts, Inc. is also providing a secure phone voting option. Voters would also use their I.D. number to vote using this alternate method.

The voting period is May 6-May 22. Results of the election will be made public shortly after the close of the election. The new board members assume office on July 1.

Candidate profiles and photos are posted here.

For more information, visit the NCO website here.

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April 17, 2009

Millions Of Indians Go To The Polls

I HAVE written about the election going on now in India but if you have a spare minute, look through some great photographs of Indian voters standing in lines, getting their fingers marked with a special ink to stop people from voting twice plus you will get an inside look at a polling place with an electronic voting machine.

Go to the slideshow now >

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April 16, 2009

Google Expands Its Election Efforts Into The Largest Democratic Event In History

INDIA'S GENERAL Election starts today and has been called the largest democratic event in human history. The election involves some 714 million eligible voters who vote over the course of four weeks. There are 828,804 polling stations, 1.3 million voting machines and 4 million election officials.

The official Google Blog recently announced that Google, along with a wide range of partners, have launched the Google India Elections Centre - available in English and in Hindi.

According to Google, people from across India can use the centre to to do the following:
  • Confirm their voter registration status
  • Discover their polling location
  • View their constituency on a map
  • Consume relevant election-related news, blog, videos and quotations
  • Evaluate the status of development in their constituency across a range of indicators
  • Learn about the background of their Member of Parliament and this year's candidates
"With still more features to be added during the election, we hope the site will be an ongoing resource for analysis, governance, and democracy in India after the election."

Visit the Election Centre >

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Gov Loop: Connecting The Government Community

YOU MIGHT have noticed the GovLoop box on the right side of this blog. Started in early 2007, GovLoop features a newsfeed, forums, job and event boards, blogs and profile pages. Most of all it is a social-networking site for public sector types. The site's tag line reads, "Connecting The Government Community."

There is an interview with Steve
Ressler, GovLoop's founder over at Government Computer News. Here is a clip:

GCN: When did you come up with the idea of GovLoop? Was there a sparking factor?

Steve Ressler: When I came to the government in 2004, I was fresh out of grad school, and I didn't have any ins in government, there weren't many other young government workers, and I was trying to figure out the bureaucracy.

So I started having happy hours, which grew into [a social-networking] organization, called the Young Government Leaders, which has over 2,000 members now.

Through that, I got to go to a number of conferences, and I saw all these different groups that were interesting — webmasters, people who worked for academia, people who worked for government — and I thought, wouldn't it be great to have these conversations online? I moved to Tampa, Fla., in the winter of 2007, I was out of the of the D.C. conference and happy-hour circuit, and so I [built
GovLoop then].

My main thing was that I saw that there were government people
siloed and couldn't talk with each other, and so it would be a great place to share ideas and best practices. It's fun as a government person to meet other smart people. It's encouraging and makes you want to stay in government. Even if you are having a bad week, you know you have another support system out there.

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April 15, 2009

The Internet's Role in Campaign 2008

MORE THAN half of U.S. adults used the Internet to participate in the 2008 election -- the first time that threshold has been crossed, according to a study released today.

Some 55 percent searched for political news online, researched candidate positions, debated issues or otherwise participated in the election over the Internet, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found.

New forms of Internet communication such as blogs, social-networking sites like Facebook and video-sharing sites played a prominent role, the nonprofit group said. Among its findings:
  • 45 percent of Internet users watched online videos related to politics or the election;
  • 33 percent of Internet users shared political content with others;
  • 52 percent of those on a social network used it for political purposes.
The Internet has grown steadily as a source of political news since 2000, when 11 percent of voters went online to keep up with political developments. That figure now stands at 26 percent. Among young voters and those with broadband connections the Internet has eclipsed traditional media like television, radio and newspapers, the survey found.

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Improving U.S. Voting Sytems

THE NATIONAL Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) last has released its "Open and Transparent Methods for Testing Electronic Voting Machines." NIST -- a non-regulatory federal agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce -- is accepting public comments on the guidelines until July 1.

"The new tests will replace multiple proprietary laboratory testing techniques," said NIST on its Web site, "with a single transparent set of tests that will help give voters and governments confidence that the systems operate in a reliable fashion. Manufacturers also will have a better understanding of how their systems must perform to comply with federal standards."

"These new tests will ensure that everyone is on the same page for testing electronic voting systems," said Lynne Rosenthal, manager of the NIST voting project in a statement. "This will not only benefit the general public and the government, but also they will help manufacturers build voting systems that meet federal standards."

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April 13, 2009

Malaysia and Six Other Countries Want To Procure Indian Electronic Voting Machines

Six countries, including Malaysia, want to procure Indian electronic voting machines made by Bharat Electronic Ltd for use at elections in the countries.

Bharat’s Deputy Manager (Corporate Communications) told PTI, adding that officials of Mauritius, Malaysia, Singapore, Namibia, South Africa and Sri Lanka had approached them, for the purpose.

"We have customised the machines to meet the electoral requirements of these countries. We have given demonstrations in these countries and further negotiations are on to address their concerns since the machines will change electoral process," he said.

The electronic voting machines, which can withstand rough handling and variable climatic conditions, were used for smooth conduct of the polls in Nepal and Bhutan recently and elections conducted in the Kathmandu constituency using these machines were part of a pilot project.

The Electronic Corporation of India Ltd, which also produces such equipment, had supplied the machines to Bhutan during its last general elections.

The electronic voting machines are becoming popular because they eliminate the possibility of invalid and doubtful votes and make the process of counting much faster. The machine can record a maximum of 3,840 votes.

Meanwhile, Bharat has supplied 102,000 machines to the Election Commission for the coming Indian general elections starting May 16. (714 million voters and 828,000 polling sates and 1.1 million electronic voting machines staffed by 4 million election personnel).

The electronic voting machines were used in the entire country for the first time in the 2004 Indian general elections.

The main advantage of the machine is that it is a standalone machine that does not have to be connected to any network.

All procedures during the polling process, from the pressing of a button to the counting of votes, can be recorded in the machine and stored up to five years.

According to the report, the machines are highly cost effective as they reduce the huge costs of transport, security of ballot boxes, printing of thousands of tonnes of ballot paper and hiring counting staff.

The machines are also easy to operate, deliver instantaneous results and the manufacturers claim they are tamperproof.

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April 11, 2009

Vote SAFE: Secure and Fair Elections Act Cleared to Gather Signatures in California

CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN State Senator George Runner has been given the OK by the Secretary of State's Office to begin collecting signatures for a measure that would tighten requirements on voting, including requiring government-issued identification and eliminating suffrage for ex-felons on probation.

The ballot title and official summary of the state proposition says it all:

LIMITS ON VOTING. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Prohibits citizens from voting at the polls unless they present a government-issued photo-identification card. Establishes provisional voting for citizens at the polls who fail to present government-issued photo-identification. Requires that provisional ballots and mail-in ballots be deemed invalid unless the accompanying envelope is marked with the last four digits of a citizen's California driver's license, state identification card or social security number. Eliminates the right to vote for citizens on probation for a felony offense. Establishes that ballots from absent military personnel are timely if postmarked by election day. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Some increased government costs associated with voting in elections. These costs probably would not be significant. (09-0005.)

In order to make it to the ballot, the initiative would have to have 433,8971 valid signatures of registered voters in California. The organizers have until September 8th to collect the required signatures. That number of signatures is equal to 5% of the total votes cast for governor in the 2006 gubernatorial election.

A handful of states are dealing with the policy of requiring voter photo identification at the polls. In Alabama the Attorney General and Republican legislators introducted a measure earlier this year but it has been delayed in committee so far. In Idaho a bill has beeen introduced that is modeled after laws in Indiana and Georgia. Mississippi the requirement recently failed by one vote and in Missouri a photo ID bill was approved by a committee but now requires a vote by the legislature.

The states that require photo ID are: Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan and South Dakota. 17 other states require identification but a photo is not required.

Read the full text of the proposition here >

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April 9, 2009

Meet Warren Slocum on Slideshare

IF YOU prepare and present slides at your talks, lectures and speeches, then you should check out Slideshare. Basically that site allows you to upload your presentation files and share them with the world. Or if you prefer, uploaded slide shows can be viewed privately.

I prepared the "Speed Bio" of myself using Apples's Keynote which is part of the iWork package. Then I saved the file as a PDF to my desktop (MacBook Pro). The final step was to give the presentation a title, some tags and assign a category.

Click the "upload" button and your creation is on the web.

Oh, did I mention that the very first step is to register as a user? That takes less than a minute and requires the usual stuff - a user name and an email address.

It's that easy!

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The "King" Takes a Ceremonial Swing and the Masters Tournament Starts

At the FBR Open in Arizona they call them "fans" and at the Masters Golf Tournament in Georgia they call them "patrons." Whatever you call them, millions of people, including non-golfers, will tune in today (through Sunday) to watch Tiger Woods compete against a stellar field (96 players) in golf's biggest event of the year.

The Masters Golf Tournament starts today!

And just like in baseball where celebrities throw out the first pitch, this morning the "King", Arnold Palmer, ceremonially drove the first tournament ball down the fairway and served as the Honorary Starter.

As a golf player and total enthusiast, I must stay wirelessly connected to all that is happening at the tournament. That's why I have downloaded "The Masters 2009 Live" from the iTunes store.

The application offers live video and live scoring from April 9-April 12, 2009
. Its key features are: live video which includes coverage from Amen Corner (holes 11, 12, and 13), holes 15 and 16 as well as video highlights at the end of each day. In order for me to follow my top picks, the software from AT&T, also has a leaderboard with live scoring, pairings and tee times plus player information. Course information includes a full map with par and yardage for each of the 18 holes - with flyover videos.

During the next four days you can be sure the Masters Golf Tournament will be with me. And on Sunday afternoon - I will be in front of the TV.

The 2009 Masters Golf Torunament TV schedule (all times are Eastern):

April 9 and 10 - 4:00 - 7:30pm ESPN
Sat, April 11- 3:30 - 7:00pm CBS
Sun, April 12 - 2:00 - 7:00pm CBS

Live video coverage schedule:

April 9 - 11 - Amen Corner starts at 10:45am; holes 15/16 start at 11:45am
Masters Extra at 3:00pm everyday
Player interviews take place all week long

Visit the Masters Web Site >

75 Things to know about the Masters >

Live blog coverage >

April 8, 2009

The Stanford Cool Product Expo

WANT TO play with tangible media, check out a plug-in hybrid, or control a computer with your mind? Meet the people behind nearly 50 innovative companies showcasing their cool products before they hit the market at the Cool Product Expo.

Cool Product Expo, one of the larg
est student organized events at Stanford University, aims to generate interest in and excitement around “cool” products and companies in the field of manufacturing and design. An attendee walking through the expo will likely encounter budding start-ups, university research lab projects, the latest R&D from global manufacturers, the best from local design studios, and more. The expo invites exhibitors from a variety of industries that practice innovation by way of design, function, and/or technology.

The expo runs from 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM, Wednesday, April 8th at the Stanford Arrilaga Alumni Center.

Visit the Expo Site >

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April 7, 2009

They'll Be Voting From Starbucks In New York City

IMAGINE VOTING from your neighborhood Starbucks during a run for your afternoon caffeine fix?

In New York City, some of the million school parents might do just that as yesterday marked the beginning of an American experiment in democracy. New York City's Department of Education is conducting what some election officials are calling the first "exclusively" online public election in the United States.

Starting April 6th and running through April 12th, NYC's, public school parents will be eligible to cast advisory votes for members of their community education councils. The unpaid council members play a role in various operational issues and help schools develop their budgets.

A private company, Election-America is providing the technical expertise that will allow parents to cast a vote on a secure web site in their pajamas from home or from anywhere there is a computer connected to the Internet. The election site, Power To The Parents, offers nine languages and the voting process involves entering a child's school identification number, a zip code and then clicking your way through the ballot.

The cost is of this election is estimated at around $500,000 which turns out to be less than half the cost of the most recent election in 2007.

One of the things that makes this election cheaper is that the entire election process is being handled online. While the rest of New York continues to use antiquated lever voting machines (which they love), this election is "online" from end to end. The candidate filing was done online, parents vote online and results will be distributed online.

The New York Times reports that in 1999, the last time there were regular direct elections for the old style school boards (abolished by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg), 95 percent of eligible parents did not vote.

Maybe giving parents the ability to vote from Starbucks will actually increase participation?

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April 3, 2009

Inside the Digital Economy: A FREE Conference

AS THE digital economy drives down the marginal costs of technology and a generation of young consumers grow accustomed to giveaways, it's no longer a question of 'How can you compete with free?' but a matter of 'How can you afford not to compete with free?'

At the same time, the current economic crisis is making the need to turn free into cash more critical than ever, and some argue that free is doing more harm than good to content creators who rely on 'traditional' business models to pay the bills. The recession has proven that it takes no prisoners, and some companies won't survive unless they can figure out how to monetize free
and quickly.

The Free! Summit (May 11th in San Mateo) addresses these challenges, and the opportunities, in an open and critical way by bringing together leading thinkers and innovators who are embracing the value of free...as well as those who are not. Investors, entrepreneurs, content developers, marketing professionals, analysts and other stakeholders who are at the forefront of the digital revolution.

Whether you're investing in free, trying to sell free, competing with free or just trying to understand what free is all about, you'll benefit from the insights and connections you will find at The Free! Summit. These days, Free! isn't solely for Internet trail blazers like craigslist and Google. Companies and industries of all types are exploring new business models and searching for better ways to anticipate and meet customer needs.

Read More >

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April 2, 2009

Small Company Makes Big Impact in the Lives of Women and Children

TOMS SHOE Company has given over 10,000 pairs of shoes to children in Argentina and 50,000 pairs in South Africa through the purchases of its caring customers. The idea is simple.

For every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS gives away one pair.

Since the beginning of Mary 2006, the company has given over 130,000 pairs of shoes to children. Most of those children never had a pair of shoes in their life.

The shoes have a distinctly traditional look to them (they’re modeled after the traditional Argentinian alpargata, a simple slip-on canvas shoe).

TOMS founder,
Blake Mycoskie, lists his occupation as "Chief Shoe Giver." He said in a 2006 LA Times article, "There is a significant health issue in a lot of Third World countries among women and children who traditionally have to walk miles to get water every day. They get cuts on their fee, which get infected. So shoes are at the top of the list when organizations ask for donations."

How did Blake ever get the original idea for his company? He says, "I was traveling in Argentina in 2006, just on vacation, and came across so many children who did not have shoes. Their feet had cuts and infections, and there I had the idea to start a shoe company that would serve as a sustainable way of giving. For every pair some one purchases, TOMS gives a pair to these children. If I had created a non-profit, we would have been able to give shoes once, or maybe twice, but by developing this One for One model, we have been able to return to these communities and other areas across the world with shoes for children in need."

If every entrepreneur in America used the TOMS model of "giving," the world would be a better place. Amen.

See pictures of the South Africa Shoe Drop here.

Buy a pair of shoes here.

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April 1, 2009

Strengthing California's Democracy: AB 84 and AB 30

YESTERDAY I traveled to Sacramento to testify before the Assembly Elections and Reapportionment Committee. I had been asked to speak in favor of two elections bills.

The first, Assembly Bill 84, authored by Jerry Hill, would make it mandatory for California election officials to provide a free method of access for voters who voted by mail, to determine if and when their vote by mail ballot had been counted. And if not counted, the reason for rejecting the ballot.

AB 84 is a natural extension to existing law. California has a similar requirement for provisional ballots. It also has a requirement to that allows voters to check on when their vote by mail ballot was received by the Registrar of Voters.

One of the things that vote by mail voters always say to me is, "I am not sure about the Post Office and whether my ballot was counted or not." If passed by both houses and signed by the Governor, AB 84 would provide peace of mind to those voters.

I support AB 84 because of that reason. It will give greater confidence to the 6 million California voters who cast their ballot by mail - they will know when the ballot was received by their election office and when that ballot was counted. And if there is a defect in their ballot, they will be able to correct it for the next election.

Organizations that spoke in favor of AB 84 included: Common Cause, the Secretary of State's Office, California League of Women Voters and others.

The bill successfully passed out of committee and now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The other bill I spoke in favor of was Assembly Bill 30 by Assembly Member Curren Price. That bill would allow 16 year olds to "pre-register" to vote and when the person turned 18, the Registrar of Voters would activate that voter's registration.

I supported this bill because it has the potential to engage more young people in the process of voting. In San Mateo County around 1,000 young people served as poll workers at the November 2008 Presidential election. They were excited by their assignments and it was the perfect time to get them pre-registered to vote.

The more people that are engaged in our Democracy, the stronger it is. AB 30 is a good thing for California's Democracy and our young people.

Assembly Bill 30 was supported by several organizations and passed out of committee. The bill's next stop is the Appropriations Committee.

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