Sussex County Delaware

Elections Dept. Site
Still Dropping the Ball


 
Sussex Beat, Aug. 21, 2000

NOTE: Sussex Beat is a mix of news, analysis and commentary by Eric Magill, publisher of Sussex County Online.

CURRENT SUSSEX BEAT:

Eric Magill, Sussex County Online

By ERIC MAGILL
SC Online
Publisher

Campaign 2000 ...

The Delaware Department of Elections has come under justified fire for promoting candidate web sites on a new Polling Place Locator section of the site.

And while the Snooze Journal has tried to take the department off the hook for modifications to the way it links to candidate sites, there remain glaring problems with the linking process, not to mention privacy concerns.

Linking Problems

For some reason, the department can't seem to find the links to all of the candidate sites.

For the time being, the department only provides links to the sites of candidates in the upcoming Republican primaries in September.

So while it provides links to the John Burris and William Swain Lee sites, it fails to provide a link to the site of Gerald Hocker, a candidate in the Republican primary for the 20th Senatorial District against Tom McCabe. This, two weeks after the department was chastised for providing links to some candidate sites while not to others.

This should raise concerns for the fall General Election. Hopefully, the department will have found links to the many candidate sites out there and added them to the site.

Excusing the omission of some links by saying that candidates didn't provide them doesn't fly for a department charged with running fair and impartial elections. The links are easy enough to find and should be provided for all candidates or none.

Privacy Concerns

Just as troubling is the listing of voters' personal information. Namely, it is possible to go to the Polling Place Locator and find the party affiliation of any registered voter in the state by merely providing the voter's name.

The Polling Place Locator requests a birth date, presumably for security purposes, but it is not necessary to provide the birth date to get a person's party affiliation. You don't even need to provide the voter's middle initial.

All you have to do is pop in a name and voila, you have their party affiliation, their town of residence, and zip code. You can also find out if a person isn't registered to vote at all by simply entering the name. If that person isn't registered, you get a message that the "Voter is not registered to vote".

To show how insecure the polling place locator is, we opened the phone book, entered a handful of names at random, and obtained the party affiliations or voting registration status of those people in a matter of seconds.

We understand that the polling place locator has been designed to enable voters to easily determine where they should vote, but the Department of Elections should implement some security measures so that voters' party affiliations aren't available to the world and open to misuse by, for instance, employers.

Frankly, we don't see why the person's party affiliation needs to be listed at all. The only information the service should provide is the polling place.

The Department of Elections, headed by Commissioner Thomas J. Cook (a Democrat from Dover in zip code 19904, by the way), still has a long way to go to correct what is a poorly planned and poorly implemented feature of its site.


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Sites Not to be Missed ...

The Center for Responsive Politics has compiled Federal Election Commission data to reveal how much money 2000 federal and state political candidates have raised and what major groups the money comes from. The site is available at http://www.opensecrets.org.


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