Pushing mediocrity to prove what?

If I learned one thing as a political organizer of many years, it is that you never leave the smallest detail to chance. The same rule applied in business when I had computer programmers reporting to me. I never let a program be released until it had been given a thorough workout under extremely difficult conditions. It is irresponsible to leave anything to chance. I really believe that the weakest link in any chain is the one you have not tested.

This comes to mind as we learn about what really happened in some experiments in voting in Ontario municipalities on Monday. This includes the ludicrous attempt at preferential voting in London as well as the well-meaning test by 51 smaller municipalities of computerized voting.

When we found out that London was going to run the program on Tuesday to find out who was mayor, we were totally confused. They could have done the job faster if they had counted by hand. All preferential voting does is drill down in the preferences of those who voted for losers, to find out who they chose as their next bad choice. It is the best way we know to find the most mediocre people to elect.

London councillors will have to delve into the weakness of the system they used that took two days to choose a mayor. Two other municipalities, Cambridge and Kingston, had questions on the ballot asking voters if they would like to try ranked voting in 2022. Cambridge did not have enough voters answer the question but Kingston voted ‘yes.’ Hopefully the Kingston councillors will come to their senses before 2022 and kill the idea.

It turns out that, for some strange reason, the firm handling the voting for the 51 smaller municipalities used a single computer centre for the voting. Obviously, the total votes anticipated was not the problem. The problem is that you never use a single data centre for something so critical. (It reminds me of the time in the 1970s we were testing a computer reporting approach for a provincial election in Prince Edward Island. The nearest data centre with the power to handle the programs was at Dalhousie University in Halifax. The polls closed at 8 pm and, for some reason, so did the Island telephone lines under the Northumberland Strait.)

Fiber optics have greatly improved bandwidth and reliability since those days but it never hurts to have redundancy on top of redundancy.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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