Politics

Election 2000: The morning after

It’s the day after the presidential election in the United States and the winner is… either Bush or Gore. The interesting thing in this is that part of the reason we have reached this outcome is that polling booth in the United States are still using antiquated technology. In Florida, the state that will decide who gets the election, the voting is done on punch cards.

For years to come, this election will be scrutinized and people will ask questions as to what went wrong. Whether Bush or Gore wins, there will be about half of the people looking for some sort of reform. In the new age of computing, one is left to wonder whether there will be a change in the way election booth are shaped.

Using technology could solve one of the problems: if the voting booth were more computerized, we might know who the next president is by now. Using basic client server technology, this could easily be changed. If the voting booth were to hold dumb terminals with touch screens connected to a server at every location, the servers could be brought in and the votes quickly tabulated.

Other net-related votes

However, a number of other critical votes were decided last night.

New Jersey votes decided to vote in favor of a proposal to post pictures, names, and addresses of sexual offenders on the Internet. This is an amendment to the New Jersey constitution but may be contested in court by privacy groups who believe that this is infringing on the civil rights of those sex offenders.

In San Francisco, proposition K, which would have put zoning limits on dot com expansion, did not pass. But proposition L, which works along the same lines, did. Similar propositions in Arizona (Proposition 202) and Colorado (Amendment 24) were defeated by voters.

In Washington, the battle between Slade Gordon (often called the Microsoft Senator) and former Real Networks executive Maria Cantwell is a draw right now, with polls too close to call until next week. This is one to watch as it could influence the way the DOJ/Microsoft lawsuit goes.

This year was also one when a lot of big name tech leaders got involved in politics. In California, proposition 38 on school vouchers was defeated in spite of DFJ founder Tim Draper. Proposition 39 on lowering the electoral threshold for school funding was supported by Kleiner-Perkins’ John Doerr, passed with a clear margin. In Texas, the “Light Rail Initiative,” which was supported by Ross Garber (founder of Vignette), Tom Meredith (Dell Ventures), John Thornton (Austin Ventures), Steve Papermaster (CEO of Agillion.com), and Jan Lindelow (CEO of Tivoli Systems) was defeated by voters. Overall, one can say that the tech industry still has a lot to learn about winning elections.

Coverage

This was the Internet’s big chance to shine in terms of reporting results and all that can be said about it is maybe next time. The net proved as powerless as TV in predicting a winner. While a lot of data was given by all the leading sites, none were able to predict the outcome any better than their TV counterparts.

Interestingly, though, the web opened up a new issue: Early release of exit polls results. Drudge Report and Inside.com also broke rank with the rest of the media by posting early exit poll reports before the polls were closed.

Also of interest was how the different web site managed the large amount of traffic they received. All and all, most of them did a fair job. While CNN.com and ABCnews.com managed to hold on properly, sites like MSNBC, NYtimes.com and USAtoday.com failed the volume test: their sites were slow and, at times, simply did not respond. Hopefully, those sites will learn their lesson and gear up better for the next election.

The next couple of days are going to be interesting in terms of traffic. A lot of people are back at work and will probably check in often on the web to get an idea of who the next president is. Now the question remains as to whether the Florida’s Division of Election Web site will manage to survive the flow of traffic it will get.

All and all, this is a fascinating story and it’s good for the web as it will keep people glued to web sites and increase traffic in general. We’ve come a long way as a medium and if there’s anything that we’re sure of right now, it’s that the web has become a viable medium for news.

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