February 28, 2010

Private Sector Solutions Meet Government Challenges

THE RISE of Government 2.0 signals the emergence of IT innovation and the Web as a platform for fostering efficiencies within government and citizen participation. The Gov 2.0 Expo will feature three days of workshops, keynotes, and sessions that showcase the most compelling stories and case studies about the ideas and projects driving government efficiency and citizen participation.

The Expo runs from May 25-27, 2010 in Washington, DC.

February 27, 2010

Seven Principles of Good Government

NEW MEXICO'S former Governor, Gary Johnson, has a book coming out, joining other potential 2012 Republican candidates in getting his views out to the voters. The book, titled “Seven Principles of Good Government”, comes on the heels of an announcement of a new PAC called the Our America Initiative which sets the groundwork for a possible presidential run in 2012.

Johnson, who served two terms as a Republican governor of New Mexico, carries with him his Seven Principles of Good Government. They are:

1. Become reality driven. Don’t kid yourself or others. Find out what’s what and base your decisions and actions on that.

2. Always be honest and tell the truth. It’s extremely difficult to do any damage to anybody when you are willing to tell the truth-regardless of the consequences.

3. Always do what’s right and fair. Remember, the more you actually accomplish, the louder your critics become. You’ve got to learn to ignore your critics. You’ve got to continue to do what you think is right. You’ve got to maintain your integrity.

4. Determine your goal, develop a plan to reach that goal, and then act. Don’t procrastinate.

5. Make sure everybody who ought to know what you’re doing knows what you’re doing. Communicate.

6. Don’t hesitate to deliver bad news. There is always time to salvage things. There is always time to fix things. Henry Kissinger said that anything that can be revealed eventually should be revealed immediately.

7. Last, be willing to do whatever it takes to get your job done. If you’ve got a job that you don’t love enough to do what it takes to get your job done, then quit and get one that you do love, and then make a difference.

P.S. With all respect Mr. Johnson, if you are running for president you need an upgraded website.

Voters to Consider Open Primary Initiative in June

IN A few months voters will be asked to decide on an initiative that would change the way election primaries are run for statewide and congressional elections.

Supporters say it would dramatically decrease the partisan gridlock that plagues Sacramento. Opponents charge it would increase the power of money in campaigns.

The initiative, Proposition 14, is known as the open primary. It would result in all the candidates in a race being put on one primary ballot, rather than each party holding its own primary.

Voters would chose any candidate, regardless of party, and the top two vote-getters would advance to the general election, even if they are from the same party.

"It will reform, transform, end the gridlock and chaos in Sacramento," said state Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, the initiative's author.

John Burton, chairman of the California Democratic Party, disagrees.

"Anybody who thinks it is going to end gridlock must be smoking dope," Burton said. "This is not going to change anything except probably you will have more business- friendly people coming out of some kind of primary, but not good for the environment or working men and women of the state."

> Read more

February 26, 2010

The Voters Will Pay

It was bad news for the voting public when Election Systems and Software, the nation's largest voting machine company, announced last fall that it was acquiring the elections division of Diebold, the nation's second-largest voting machine company.

The combination could mean that nearly 70 percent of the nation's precincts would use machines made by a single company. If the deal is allowed to go through, it would make it harder for jurisdictions to bargain effectively on price and quality. The Justice Department should reject it as a violation of antitrust rules that is clearly not in the public's interest.

Read More

How Mobile Apps Are Revolutionizing Elections, Transparency

THE IMPORTANCE of social media in politics was made clear by Barack Obama's 2008 presidential run. But there is a new frontier of Web 2.0 technologies that politicians and political groups are slowly starting to embrace: the smartphone app. These apps have the potential to reshape how politicians communicate, raise money and get out the vote.

>Read More

Suit Over 1st Electronic Signature Submitted

A FEW weeks ago, a USB flash drive was submitted to the San Mateo County elections office containing an image of a signature supporting an initiative to legalize and tax marijuana. That signature represented the first electronic signature ever submitted to help qualify a California ballot proposition.

After studying the law on the subject, I officially rejected the electronic signature scribbled on an iPhone's touch screen based on a requirement in the state elections code that a voter must "personally affix" his or her name, signature and place of residence on a petition. I said in a press release that "a court must determine whether a signature submitted electronically qualifies as personally affixed."

Now I have been sued over the rejection of that electronic signature. The hearing on this historic matter is scheduled for March 18th in the San Mateo County Superior Court.

> Read the legal pleading submitted by the Plaintiffs here.

> Read the Verafirma Press Release on the lawsuit here.

>Read the Mercury News story on the lawsuit here.

February 25, 2010

6 Social Media Stats You Can't Live Without

WHEN YOU'RE blogging, putting out Facebook ads and Twittering away, who is in the audience you should be targeting?

While the typical belief is that social networking sites are a hub for the young, a recent study by the technology Web site Pingdom revealed data that proves otherwise. Pingdom collected the age statistics and crunched the numbers for 19 different Web sites, including Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, Delicious and StumbleUpon. They also used data from Google's Ad Planner service.

Open up a new Word document, folks, because what they discovered should definitely be noted if you want to make your Web sites successful: it's not teenagers and young adults dominating the social media sphere. Rather, it's their parents.

Here is a quick summary:

1. A quarter of social media users are between the ages of 35 and 44.

2. 61 percent of Facebook's users are middle aged or older.

3. College-age people do not dominate any particular Web site.

4. The 17 and under crowd dominates Bebo.

5. Senior citizens have not caught on to social media yet.

6. Classmates.com has the largest amount of older members.

Discover the 6 Social Media stats that you can't live without along with explanations of the data by clicking here.

Demonstration of Oregon's Online Voter Registration System Today

OREGON SECRETARY of State Kate Brown is scheduled to host a demonstration today starting at 9 a.m. of the state's new online voter registration system. A simulcast of the demonstration will also be available by webinar.

Oregon will become the fourth state to implement online voter registration, after Arizona (2002), Washington (2007) and Kansas (2009). Three others are schedule to go online with their own systems later in 2010.

To view the webinar, click here.

February 24, 2010

93 Million Americans Disconnected From Broadband Opportunities

THE FEDERAL Communications Commission yesterday released its National Broadband Plan Consumer Survey, Broadband Adoption and Use in America, which found that affordability and lack of digital skills are the main reasons why 93 million Americans -- one-third of the country -- are not connected to high-speed Internet at home.

“We need to tackle the challenge of connecting 93 million Americans to our broadband future,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “In the 21st century, a digital divide is an opportunity divide. To bolster American competitiveness abroad and create the jobs of the future here at home, we need to make sure that all Americans have the skills and means to fully participate in the digital economy.”

On March 17, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission will deliver a National Broadband Plan to Congress that details a strategy for connecting the country to affordable, world-class broadband. This will be a strategy for U.S. global leadership in high-speed Internet to create jobs and spur economic growth; to unleash new waves of innovation and investment; and to improve education, health care, energy efficiency, public safety, and the vibrancy of our democracy.

As part of the plan, the FCC conducted a national random digit-dial survey of adults in October and November 2009 to assess America’s attitudes toward broadband. The Consumer Survey found that 35 percent of adult Americans do not have high-speed Internet connections at home -- or approximately 80 million adults and 13 million children over the age of five.

The survey identifies three main barriers to adoption:

  • Affordability: 36 percent of non-adopters, or 28 million adults, said they do not have home broadband because the monthly fee is too expensive (15 percent), they cannot afford a computer, the installation fee is too high (10 percent), or they do not want to enter into a long-term service contract (9 percent). According to survey respondents, their average monthly broadband bill is $41.
  • Digital Literacy: 22 percent of non-adopters, or 17 million adults, indicated that they do not have home broadband because they lack the digital skills (12 percent) or they are concerned about potential hazards of online life, such as exposure to inappropriate content or security of personal information (10 percent).
  • Relevance: 19 percent of non-adopters, or 15 million adults, said they do not have broadband because they say that the Internet is a waste of time, there is no online content of interest to them or, for dial-up users, they are content with their current service.

The survey also found that non-adopters usually have more than one barrier that keeps them from having broadband service at home. Over half of non-adopters, when selecting from a menu of possible barriers to adoption, chose three or more. For example, more than half of non-adopters who cited cost also listed reasons relating to digital literacy or relevance.

“The gap in broadband adoption is a problem with many different dimensions that will require many different solutions,” said John Horrigan, Director of Consumer Research for the Omnibus Broadband Initiative. “Lowering costs of service or hardware, helping people develop online skills, and informing them about applications relevant to their lives are all key to sustainable adoption.”

The interaction of attitudes and use of communications goods and services creates four categories of non-adopters:

  • Near Converts, who make up 30 percent of non-adopters, have the strongest tendencies toward getting broadband. They have high rates of computer ownership, positive attitudes about the Internet. Many are dial-up or “not-at-home” users, and affordability is the leading reason for non-adoption among this group. They are relatively youthful compared with other non-adopters, with a median age of 45.
  • Digital Hopefuls, who make up 22 percent of non-adopters, like the idea of being online but lack the resources for access. Few have a computer and, among those who use one, few feel comfortable with the technology. Some 44 percent cite affordability as a barrier to adoption and they are also more likely than average to say digital literacy are a barrier. This group is heavily Hispanic and has a high share of African-Americans.
  • Digitally Uncomfortable, who make up 20 percent of non-adopters, are the mirror image of the Digital Hopefuls; they have the resources for access but not a bright outlook on what it means to be online. Nearly all of the Digitally Uncomfortable have computers, but they lack the skills to use them and have tepid attitudes toward the Internet. This group reports all three barriers: affordability, digital literacy, and relevance.
  • Digitally Distant, who make up 28 percent of non-adopters, do not see the point of being online. Few in this group see the Internet as a tool for learning and most see it as a dangerous place for children. This is an older group (the median age is 63), nearly half are retired and half say that either relevance or digital literacy are barriers to adoption.

The Consumer Survey interviewed 5,005 adult Americans between October 19 and November 23, 2009. The margin of error based on results based on the entire sample is plus or minus 1.6 percentage points. The survey included an over-sample of non-adopters, resulting in interviews of 2,334 adults who are not broadband users at home. The margin of error for results based on non-adopters is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points. Interviewers conducting the survey provide a Spanish-language option for respondents wishing to take the survey in Spanish.

To read Broadband Adoption and Use in America, visit: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-296442A1.pdf

February 23, 2010

Smart Destinations

TED IS a small nonprofit devoted to ideas worth spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: technology, entertainment and design. Since then its scope has become even broader. At TED there are a total of more than 596 talks available, all from its two annual conferences.

FORA.tv claims it helps intelligent, engaged audiences get smart. "Our users find, enjoy, and share videos about the people, issues, and ideas changing the world. We gather the web's largest collection of unmediated video drawn from live events, lectures, and debates going on all the time at the world's top universities, think tanks, and conferences."

February 22, 2010

Green Voters in California

CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY Bill 1717, authored by Assemblyman Kevin De Leon, would authorize city and county election officials, if specified conditions are met, to establish procedures to allow a voter to opt out of receiving his or her sample ballot and other ballot materials by mail and instead obtain them via electronic means such as email or accessing them from a county's or city's web site.

February 21, 2010

CitySourced Lets People Complain to City Hall Using Smart Phones

CitySourced is a real time mobile civic engagement tool. CitySourced provides a free, simple, and intuitive tool empowering citizens to identify civil issues (potholes, graffiti, trash, snow removal, etc.) and report them to city hall for quick resolution; an opportunity for government to use technology to save money and improve accountability to those they govern; and a positive, collaborative platform for real action. CitySourced empowers everyday citizens to use their smart phones to make their cities a better place. CitySourced is powered by FreedomSpeaks, a leader in interactive civic engagement.

February 20, 2010

One Electronic Signature May Shape California's Initiative Process Forerver

California Chief Justice Ronald George escalated his criticism of the state's initiative process Friday, saying unrestrained ballot-box lawmaking is paralyzing government. And speaking of the initiative process in California, you may recall that I rejected an electronic signature on a state initiative petition (background here). The court hearing has been set to hear the arguments on whether electronic signatures on petitions are legal or not. It is scheduled for San Mateo Superior Court on March 18th.

It will be interesting to see if the California Secretary of State's office takes a legal stand on this issue - or maybe others?

For a demonstration of Verafirma's software, visit democracy.verafirma.com. And for an editorial on the topic see, Joe Mathews' (a contributing writer to Opinion and a fellow at the New America Foundation), "Taking the Ink Out of Signatures" that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on February 14, 2010.

Stay tuned.

February 14, 2010

Taking the Ink Out of Signatures

AFEW WEEKS ago, a statewide ballot initiative petition signed by a California voter named Michael Ni was delivered -- quietly and without fanfare -- to the clerk's office in San Mateo County.

Strange as it may sound, this is no exaggeration: Ni's John Hancock may reshape American politics forever.

Ni did not sign his name on a piece of paper. His signature was electronic. He wrote his name on the petition (a measure to legalize and tax cannabis in California) using the touch screen of his iPhone. The signature was then delivered to the county clerk on a flash drive, one of those small memory storage devices you use to back up files on your computer.

In doing this, Ni -- the co-founder of a Silicon Valley start-up that has developed a technology for electronic signature-gathering -- was seeking to challenge the rules that have governed the American political economy since the Progressive era.

Money may be the mother's milk of politics, but the real currency of the ballot box is voter signatures. Candidates must collect signatures to get on the ballot. Ballot initiatives need signatures to qualify. Voters can't register to vote or request absentee ballots unless they put their signature on paper.

With all the paper and printing and mailing and validation, the business of collecting signatures is a costly one. As a result, access to a ballot is generally limited to those candidates and interests with deep pockets. Nowhere is that more evident than in California, where qualifying an initiative for a statewide ballot is at minimum a $2-million proposition.

Electronic signatures could disrupt this economy by making signatures, and therefore access to ballots, much, much cheaper. Ni's signature thus promises -- for better and worse -- a new era of grass-roots politics, with more registered voters, more middle-class candidates and more initiatives without billionaires, big business or big labor unions behind them.

If Ni's signature is determined to be legal. He and the fellow founders of his firm, Verafirma -- Democratic political consultant Jude Barry and entrepreneur Michael Marubio -- submitted the signature in anticipation of having to defend it in court.

By virtue of taking place in Silicon Valley, this battle will be a home game for the technology crowd. The San Mateo County clerk, Warren Slocum, has a national reputation for his technological savvy. His office maintains a blog and regularly updates its Twitter account. He has embraced electronic voting machines. In the name of saving money and the environment, he has fought to have printed voting materials replaced with electronic versions.

Nevertheless, Slocum will be Ni's opponent in a legal contest that could begin as soon as this week. In an interview, Slocum said that, on the advice of attorneys, he cannot accept Ni's electronic signature as valid. Without clear precedent, he doesn't know whether the state legal requirement that a voter "personally affix" his signature to an initiative petition would cover Ni's case.

"It's questionable whether it meets the requirements of the law," Slocum said. "A court is probably the place where the question can be decided."

However, he notes that shoppers have been signing screens in grocery stores and outlet malls for 20 years, so "it's natural that this will come to the world of elections."

The anticipated legal case could turn on semantic questions raised by applying century-old rules to 21st century technology. What constitutes a "signed" petition under the state Constitution's requirement that a petition must be "certified to have been signed" before it can be put on a ballot? Critics will argue that an electronic signature is not as secure or trustworthy as ink on paper. Verafirma will counter that its software application mimics the act of signing -- users write on a touch screen just as they would on paper -- and that by capturing data on each stroke, the technology is more easily verifiable than a pen-and-paper signature.

If Ni's signature quickly wins the approval of the courts, efforts to reform California's dysfunctional government could get an important boost. The constitutional convention movement, which stalled last week because of a lack of money to pay signature-gatherers, might be revived at a lower cost if electronic signatures were permitted.

UC Berkeley linguist George Lakoff says he will begin collecting electronic signatures this week for his initiative to replace the state Constitution's requirement of a two-thirds legislative vote for budget appropriations and tax increases with a majority vote provision. He says his attorneys have advised him that Ni's signature is likely to be certified.

"In the age of the iPad," Lakoff said, "this is inevitable."

If he's right, a new era of American politics may start with a single signature.

NOTE: Article authored by Joe Mathews and appeared in the Los Angeles Times 2.14.10

One Perspective on My Contributions

THE ANNOUNCED retirement plans of Warren Slocum, San Mateo County's clerk-recorder and chief elections officer, compel a word or two regarding his handling of that last vital function.

Slocum and his colleagues in the Elections Office have developed what amounts to a model of efficiency. Through innovative use of technology, they have come up with a vote-count reporting operation that has become the envy of its peers throughout the state.

Election night here typically goes like clockwork. Absentee ballots are reported on the Internet at 8:05 p.m. and, after that, precinct and remaining votes are posted at stated intervals.

Surprises, glitches and delays are kept to a merciful minimum. The Elections Office Web site is reliable and easy to use, even for those who aren't tech-savvy.

Slocum has built a reputation as one of California's exemplary elections officials. For some time, a fear here was that Slocum might be lured north to San Francisco to improve that city's often frazzled and gaffe-riddled election system.

County residents have been very fortunate that Slocum never caved in to any siren song from elsewhere in the Bay Area.

We are far better off because of that circumstance. His replacement, whoever he or she may be, has an exceedingly tough act to follow.

NOTE: Article posted on 2.12.10 in the San Mateo County Times by John Horgan