Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A voters database that can't be queried?

The AJC had a story late last week about people being purged from voter registration roles for one reason or another. And this paragraph struck me:
Despite numerous requests, state elections officials would not identify the voters whose names were removed nor say how many people were affected in the latest round. Carrothers said the information wouldn˙t be available until after the upcoming election.
How you vote is private. But whether you vote, and whether you are registered to vote is a matter of public record, as are various registration and voting statistics.

I asked the Secretary of State's Office why they wouldn't release the details, and Spokesman Matt Carrothers said it's a technology issue. It would take a "significant amount of man hours" to get the mainframe that stores this information to spit it out, Carrothers said. And, at the moment, elections officials are too busy preparing for the election itself.

Think about that. The voter registration records are kept in a database. What kind of database can't be sorted with few key strokes?

Carrothers said he'd find out. I'll update when he calls back.

UPDATE: From Carrothers:
"Because of the technology. It just requires an immense amount of time to program it to do the query and then to run the query. ...

"Obviously this is a system that we inherited. Been in place... for about 15 years. ...

"It will cost several million to replace and upgrade the system."
At several million, I went off the tracks a little bit and asked why someone couldn't just run out to Office Max for a copy of Excel. Carrothers assured me that Secretary Karen Handel would be going about this in the most cost efficient and appropriate manner she can.

Any database experts out there who want to take a shot at this?

UPDATE 2: And I just don't know what to make of this:
Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said Georgia has asked the administration to verify the identities of nearly 2 million voters, more than any other state. He wrote on Friday to Handel and election officials in five other states that have also requested unusually high numbers of identity checks. But Handel’s deputy questioned the validity of the Social Security Administration’s numbers.

UPDATE 3: The New York Times has a piece on this nationwide, and it appears that The Times' interest in the issue is what prompted the Social Security Administration to send the letters in the first place.


Victor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Puppy said...

It's crap. Even assuming an old COBOL driven mainframe, it should be trivial to pull out a list of the people who are currently in the database...If it wasn't they certainly couldn't provide lists for the poll workers in a timely manner.

I'd put it down to just more FOIA dodging, but I would think that they would have an obligation to release information about who was removed, simply because they should need to notify them of the change in status.

If nothing else, they should know the methodology that they applied to make the changes, so that should be easy to release, if they were actually acting in good faith.