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First POST: Fixing Elections

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, January 31 2013

Fix the vote

  • Following President Barack Obama's inaugural mention of electoral administration, House Democrats have introduced H.R. 12, the Voter Empowerment Act of 2013. Among other things, the bill would require states to provide online voter registration, clarifies voter ID requirements, sets standards for privacy — including a provision that victims of domestic violence, for example, might have their information retained by the state but withheld from view — and lays out guidelines to improve accuracy of the voter rolls.

    The bill has been referred to several House committees.

Chinese hackers get behind the paywall

  • The New York Times reports that people in China attempted to access its reporters' email addresses and gain other information from its computer networks:

    The timing of the attacks coincided with the reporting for a Times investigation, published online on Oct. 25, that found that the relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings.

Building towards reform?

  • Google and Twitter transparency reports released earlier this week expand a conversation about online privacy in a way that what's available from the government simply won't do, Miranda Neubauer writes:

    "The government is so secretive that the only way we can get this information is through the companies," [the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Trevor] Timm told techPresident.

    As a result, only companies like Google and Facebook are providing the kinds of information that watchdogs and members of Congress need when considering how to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act — a law consistently invoked when defining online privacy despite the fact that it is 27 years old and predates the modern Internet.

    Companies like Facebook or cellphone carriers should release similar information, he said.

No honor among pirates?

Around the web

  • One of our favorite things at techPresident is the "Personal Explanations" tumblr, which documents when members of Congress ask that a change of their vote be noted in the Congressional Record as well as the sometimes absurd excuses given by members who miss a vote. Today Personal Explanations catches Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in action:

    As some Supreme Court Justice said sometime, sunlight keeps
    mold from happening, or something to that effect.

  • Nextgov's Joseph Marks writes: "Every federal agency’s information technology shop should include workers with expertise in social media, open government and cloud computing. That's according to new guidance from the federal Chief Information Officers Council."

  • And also looks at how Congress might get closer to a GitHub-ready version of the U.S. Code.

  • Look at this software suite for municipal councils to better manage legislation.

  • In Minnesota, a business-to-business online exchange to help distribute flu vaccines.

  • Mobile phones are proliferating in Africa, but when it comes to coverage, reception is still very spotty in rural areas, Reuters reports.

  • The British-made Raspberry Pi, a credit-card-sized, bare-bones computer available for $35, will be headed to UK schools to help kids learn programming and computer science thanks to support from Google. While your First POST editor uses a Raspberry Pi as a front end for his home media center, the tiny computer was always intended to be a cheap and easy starter kit for kids to learn computing from the ground up — to understand what technology is and what it can do, rather than only what a vendor allows it to do, and to think like a maker rather than a consumer.

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

Beyond @Congressedits, Capitol Hill Looks for Entry to Wikipedia

As he recently told techPresident, the creator of Congressedits did not aim to make Members of Congress look bad, but said he hoped that they would recognize the importance of Wikipedia as a public space and engage more with its community. "If staffers and politicians identified as Wikipedians, that would be super. You could imagine politicians' home pages with a list of their recent edits, that they would be proud of the things that they are doing." On Capitol Hill, there is in fact interest in making that vision a reality, starting off with an initial conversation that could create a framework for more Wikipedians in Congress. GO

wednesday >

In the Philippines, Citizens Go Undercover With Bantay to Monitor Public Offices

The Philippines, a country of almost 100 million, is considered among the most corrupt country in Southeast Asia, despite a boost in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index in the past few years (from 134th in 2010 to 94th in 2013 out of 175.) Corruption involves all levels of government, but benefits also from a mindset of tolerance, says Happy Feraren, the co-founder of Bantay.ph, an anti-corruption educational initiative that teaches citizens how to monitor the quality of government services, sometimes by going undercover. GO

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