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Breakfast links: Get Smart

Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.
More ways to get a SmarTrip: All Metro stations now have at least one SmarTrip dispenser Roll-out of new machines were delayed while WMATA worked out the ADA compliance issues for those with visual impairments. (Post)

City Dems, rural GOP?: The presence of sidewalks strongly correlates with voting Democratic. But how much longer can Republicans continue to ignore cities? Paul Ryan actually wanted to campaign in cities. (Streetsblog, Atlantic Cities, Next American City)

Long poll lines need fixing: High turnout and too few voting machines and poll workers meant long lines on election day, particularly in swing state Virginia. Perhaps it's time to reform voting and maybe look at online voting? (Post)

Transit agencies announce inauguration service: VRE will be closed, MARC will run limited service, and Metro will be open longer and run more trains for Obama's second inauguration. (Examiner)

Get to Georgetown easier: Joe Sternleib, new Georgetown BID head, wants to make Georgetown easier to get to with performance parking, bike racks, cab stands, and more Circulators. Also, NPS control limits options for activity on the waterfront. (DCmud)

Outreach breeds support: Public and low-income housing agencies can do a better job of public outreach and thus build public support for their programs. This is particurally important as funding for such programs becomes harder to get. (RPUS)

A second term how to: To help cities, President Obama should cap the mortgage deduction, increase the gas tax, loosen arbitrary train safety standards, and give more credit to non-car dependent projects in funding decisions. (Atlantic Cities)

Where'd everyone go?: Director Ross Ching uses time-lapse photography to show what DC would look like without people. He has done similar works for New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. (DCist)

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Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  


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I never waited in long polling lines when I lived in a rural area. Maybe that was by design, though. Two-thirds of the people in the ward were voting Republican after all.

by aaa on Nov 8, 2012 8:50 am • linkreport

@aaa I understand the sentiment, but I've never had the problems in Alexandria that people are reporting in surrounding jurisdictions.

by movement on Nov 8, 2012 9:01 am • linkreport

The long lines in virginia were a couple of factors.

The new ID requirements definitely slowed checking down a bit.

The constitutional amnedements took a long time to read.

Most people refused to use the backup optical ballot although it is probably the most secure in terms of an actual paper trail. This is probably the biggest.

We've had one bout of reform (HAVA) and it didn't help at all.

by charlie on Nov 8, 2012 9:18 am • linkreport

There's a bigger problem with polling locations. The contracting out of machinery to for profit corporations of an inherently governmental function...monitoring and conducting elections. We need to bring lawsuits against our states and municipalities to end this practice.

by Redline SOS on Nov 8, 2012 9:41 am • linkreport

Re: Georgetown

Glad to hear about more bike parking and more Circulators. On a related note, does anyone know why sometimes Circulators move at a crawl (like 5mph). I was stuck behind one on my BIKE on M ST and had to (easily) pass it on my BIKE. It's not the first time I've seen Circulators moving that slowly.

Re: Voting

I vote by mail-in absentee every election and never understood why everyone else doesn't. Not as easy as voting by email or online but vastly superior to in-person voting. Anyone who's work/travel schedule won't permit taking 2-3 hours to vote in-person is eligible for absentee voting.

by Falls Church on Nov 8, 2012 9:45 am • linkreport

I voted in Alex at Ramsey rec center and I waited an hour and 15 minutes. No electronic option here either. Just paper. A quick review of turnout around the state showed it was one of the busiest precincts with almost 3000 people voting.

by ChrisB on Nov 8, 2012 9:54 am • linkreport

The contracting out of machinery to for profit corporations of an inherently governmental function...monitoring and conducting elections.

What? The government should have to program and manufacture their own voting machines?

Really we should be moving towards optical scan and a ballot box - if you want to stick around and wait for your ballot to be fed into the machine that's fine, or just put it in the box and the elections people will scan it later. That way you can have more people voting at once and move the lines faster.

Things DCBOEE should change for next time:
- More information on their web site/twitter/facebook during early voting about how long the lines are and the estimated wait times. Information should be updated a few times a day at the least for each early voting location.

- Ability to do optical scan ballots during early voting at the location in your ward. They have to print the ballots anyway, those early voting locations should have them.

- Encourage more absentee voting.

Though on absentee voting, my girlfriend voted absentee and it doesn't appear her ballot was counted (using the online check on the website). She tried to get in touch with DCBOEE on election day via phone several times but couldn't get through to find out what to do.

by MLD on Nov 8, 2012 10:00 am • linkreport

Falls Church, I have realized that about the Circulator. I think part of it is they try to avoid bunching, so if they know that the bus ahead of them is running behind, the driver will try to hold at stops. I've also found that drivers are generally a lot more willing to hold for running passengers (compared to Metrobus drivers). The lack of a having to stick to a dedicated schedule may have something to do with that.

by Daniel on Nov 8, 2012 10:05 am • linkreport

Re: Georgetown BID head, I think he meant he wants more "CaBi stations" not "cabbie stations" - must have been a transcription error. I've only ever heard the term "taxi stand" and in any case he went on to mention bikeshare in the next paragraph.

by MrTinDC on Nov 8, 2012 10:07 am • linkreport


What? The government should have to program and manufacture their own voting machines?

Why the surprise? I think arguments could be made for either position, but there are government entities who could engineer both the hardware and software for voting machines.

There's no reason this has to be left up to "the marketplace".

by oboe on Nov 8, 2012 10:27 am • linkreport

RE: Circulator, no it is a particuar driver. There is an old lady that I refuse to get on board if I see her on the G-Dupont route. Way way slow. I got off at city sports and beat her to the 4 seasons on foot -- and this was not in a traffic jam.

yes, they have a tendancy to wait at stops, be more generous at picks ups, etc. But the actual driving speed is set by a few bad drivers.

You could also speed things up with an informational placard at M and Wisconsin explaining the 2 lines. I agree it should be easy, but I'd guess 50% of those asking are foreign.

by charlie on Nov 8, 2012 10:36 am • linkreport

One thing I found (voting at Foundry UMC in Dupont) is that a lot of people thought they had to wait around for the one or two touchscreen machines available, instead of just filling out an bubble-style paper ballot. But I had heard beforehand that DC was supposed to be encouraging people to use the paper ballots and moving away from the touchscreen machines, so I knew to ask for a paper ballot -- quite a few other people did too -- and I was through in no time, since there were plenty of booths set aside in another room for filling in paper ballots. (Granted, Foundry had shorter lines in general than I heard about in other places.) Is it true that DC is supposed to be encouraging a move away from the touchscreens, but somebody forgot to tell the voters and the poll workers? Or was I misinformed about that?

Another thing I heard about is that a lot of polling places in the District had security stuff for entering the building, such as metal detectors and even ID checks, that were delaying a lot of people. This sounds like somebody really needs to reconsider the choice of polling places, especially regarding the ID check thing, since this isn't a compulsory-voter-ID jurisdiction.

by iaom on Nov 8, 2012 10:49 am • linkreport

Why the surprise? I think arguments could be made for either position, but there are government entities who could engineer both the hardware and software for voting machines.

There's no reason this has to be left up to "the marketplace".

I'm no market-worshiper but there are plenty of benefits to buying machines from private companies. A big one is that if your jurisdiction screws up and gets the wrong product it is easier to go get something else.

Not to mention many of the things that people have concerns about (open source software) can be solved more easily by including it in the contract, and the government doing the whole process won't even guarantee that those things would happen.

by MLD on Nov 8, 2012 11:17 am • linkreport

Maybe I'm missing something, but why wouldn't VRE run trains for the inauguration? And MARC on a reduced schedule? Seems like a perfect time to set ridership records, not reduce or eliminate service.

by H Street LL on Nov 8, 2012 12:01 pm • linkreport

Georgetown seems to have no trouble attracting people despite its traffic problems. the long-term threat is the escalation in rents that have driven out even high end retailers like Thos Moser and long time businesses like Furin's. There are as many or more vacancies now than in the financial meltdown days of a few years ago.

The Atlantic article is a bit of a mess. The author talks about cities but then does things like lump-in NoVA which is clearly almost entirely suburban. She also neglects regional differences--Atlanta, for example, has a great many GOP voters in the city and there are other examples of this in the sunbelt.

by Rich on Nov 8, 2012 12:17 pm • linkreport

Does anyone have a link to anything that talks about what percentage of the electorate would/might use online voting if it were available?
Certainly seems like the easiest way to alleviate polling place overcrowding.

by Thaps on Nov 8, 2012 12:20 pm • linkreport

Thaps -- online voting would promote voter fraud, or at least that has been the GOP line about anything that would make voting easier. Even the first President Bush used this as a rationale to oppose the Motor Voter bill back in the day, which would have let people register to vote when they got their driver's licenses. (The bill later became law.) I see no reason why conservatives would suddenly agree to be cooperative on this front.

by aaa on Nov 8, 2012 1:16 pm • linkreport

Circulator, no it is a particuar driver. There is an old lady that I refuse to get on board if I see her on the G-Dupont route.

That's got to be it. There's no way that the buses are going that slow by design. Literally, they are going as slowly as a car with an automatic transmission would go if you lifted your foot off the brake but did not press the accelerator. I wish there was some way to tell Circulator about this problem so they could talk to the relevant drivers. My wife complained about that Circulator route and I never really believed her until I saw it myself.

by Falls Church on Nov 8, 2012 3:50 pm • linkreport

What? The government should have to program and manufacture their own voting machines?

Why the surprise?

Government doesn't have the expertise to build those machines unless they created the expertise for that purpose only. The question then would be -- what do you do with those people you've hired after they're done building the machines? You don't need all of them for maintenance and you can't just fire them. This isn't a problem for companies like Diebold/NCR that build voting machines because the same staff who do the voting machines can work on related products like ATMs, Redbox, and self-checkout machines.

In reality, if gov't had to build voting machines, they'd hire contractors to do most of the work for them.

by Falls Church on Nov 8, 2012 3:52 pm • linkreport

Just a gentle reminder that NIST, the NSA are part of "the government". I think many decades of the post-Reagan Revolution have distorted our way of thinking about some of this stuff. I have no problem with "the government" designing the hardware and software for standardized voting system, then hiring contractors to build the hardware components for a single, open-source solution.

by oboe on Nov 8, 2012 3:59 pm • linkreport

Just a gentle reminder that NIST, the NSA are part of "the government"

I'm pretty sure that NIST/NSA could not do what NCR/Diebold does and that NCR/Diebold can't do what NIST/NSA does. I'd agree that the government could set standards, issue policy, develop regulations, and define requirements with regards to the design and function of voting machines (or just about anything) as that's what the government does all the time. For example, "the government" (which is really 50 autonomous state governments -- part of the problem is that most everything with regards to voting machines is at the state level) could require that voting machines be built using a standard open source solution.

But, the government doesn't really have folks who can build systems (software or hardware) because the government's competency is in operating/maintaining things and supervising things, not really in building things.

by Falls Church on Nov 8, 2012 4:23 pm • linkreport


The initial comment seemed to take issue with the fact that private companies had anything to do with the process.

If the argument is that government should set standards and buy machines that meet those standards... well they already do that. The problem is the people making the standards and procuring things aren't doing it correctly, and moving more of that system on the government's plate isn't going to solve that problem, in fact it might make it worse.

by MLD on Nov 8, 2012 5:01 pm • linkreport

re: the slow Circulator.

I was recently on a slowpoke bus on the wisconsin-downtown route and it was extremely frustrating. It may in fact be on purpose to avoid bunching, but I'd rather wait at stops than cruise at walking pace down M St and Pennsylvania. It was a male driver, so not the same one you all are talking about. I finally got out at 24th and grabbed a bike.

by jyindc on Nov 8, 2012 6:10 pm • linkreport

The technology does not exist to make voting machines secure and cost effective. The people clamoring for them tend to be those who like the latest shiny things, not the people who really understand the technology (the latter are horrified/terrified). The paper optical scan ballots are the current best available technology to hit a reasonable balance between security, cost, and ease of use. The needs of the disabled community could be met with a stand-alone machine that simply helped prepare the paper ballot (so it doesn't need the same kind of security as something that is the system of record).

Note that the banks spend a ton of money on security ATM machines and still have fraud issues. There is zero chance that election officials will ever get the kind of security budget that the banks have, so there's equally no chance that electronic voting machines can ever be secure. (Not to mention the fact that vote security is a much, much harder problem due to the lack of an audit trail, the general problem in physically securing the devices, the fact that even the perception of a problem can have a catastrophic effect on the legitimacy of the government, etc.)

So no, Diebold does not know how to make this work, and no, private industry will never come up with a reasonable solution because there's no money in it--the taxpayers are not willing to spend enough on elections to change that. Instead, the current trend should continue and we should switch to something time tested, secure, and relatively cheap--the paper ballot.

by Mike on Nov 9, 2012 1:00 pm • linkreport

I think both Oregon and Washington have almost 100% mail-in ballots now. It seems to work extremely well. Best of all it diminishes the influence of advertising money in elections since people can vote extremely early. In addition it raises the % of eligible people voting way above what this year sunk to around 50%.

Are we really a democracy when money controls elections so much and a person has to go register months ahead and then take off work again and wait in sometimes 8-hour lines to vote? That's a huge poll tax if it sinks participation to 50%.

by Tom Coumaris on Nov 11, 2012 11:30 am • linkreport

One thing to try to keep in mind is why the current mode of going to a polling place to cast a secret ballot was developed. Maybe the magic of blogs can prevent mail-in ballots (if widely adopted) from being instruments of vote-buying or voter intimidation, but we'll have to be extremely vigilant. This is not much of an issue in Oregon and Washington (they're not about to turn an election) but could be a real problem in Cincinnati or Philadelphia or Miami.

by Mike on Nov 12, 2012 6:59 am • linkreport

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