But do these serious problems have a common source? The IAIDQ says that the underlying issue is the lack of focus on the quality of voter information and data in all election processes, from voter registration to vote counting and recounts.
“Who knows who will win the election? Regardless of how close the outcome, some voters will be disenfranchised because of poor data quality,” says Christian Walenta, President IAIDQ. “Voter intention is corrupted by counting errors, poor ballot design and poor voter registration information.”
Eligibility to vote is based on registration information provided by the voter. Failures in the quality of that information can deprive voters of a voice or worse, overturn voter preference.
Dr. Thomas Redman, author of the recently-published book Data Driven: Profiting from Your Most Important Business Asset (Harvard Business Press) and co-founder of the IAIDQ, commented, “Democracies depend on trust and nothing is more critical for that trust than fair, honest elections,” says Dr. Redman. “It all has to come together on Election Day. Our financial markets also depend on trust – and look what’s happened as trust has evaporated.”
What can voters do? After the election they should press their federal and state representatives to apply proven practices for managing information and data quality to the election process.
For November 4th, Larry P. English, co-founder of the IAIDQ and author of Improving Data Warehouse and Business Information Quality (Wiley & Sons), has this advice for voters: “Ask for a paper ballot if they’re available in your precinct. Electronic voting machines are not secure, nor can they be used to conduct a recount. If no durable paper ballot is available, be sure you understand how to use the voting equipment. Ask what errors can disqualify your vote and how to avoid them.”
The 2008 election may be highlighting the dangers of poor data quality to our democratic process. But in a digital age our whole economy and way of life rely on information. Poor data quality poses a real threat to the way we live.
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The International Association for Information & Data Quality (IAIDQ, www.iaidq.org)
About Christian Walenta
Christian Walenta is the President of the IAIDQ and has served in a number of voluntary leadership roles in the Association since its foundation in 2004.
About Larry P. English
Larry P. English is President of INFORMATION IMPACT International. He is on the Board of Directors of US Count Votes and National Election Data Archive.
About Dr Thomas C. Redman
Dr Thomas C. Redman is President of Navesink Consulting Group, based in Little Silver, N.J. He has been a pioneer in extending quality principles to include data and information.