Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Process reflections on recall day

I was a bit puzzled by last week's announcement by the Government Accountability Board that is has engaged an outside vendor to build a data base of the names and addresses on the recall petitions.  The article reports "[b]ecause of the judge's order, the board is purchasing software that can electronically read printed names that appear on the recall petitions and load the names into a database. " The cost of this is said to be $ 100,000 (out of an estimated nine million dollars for the cost of the recall statewide).
Is that right? Did the GAB really contract with this vendor after the judge's order. The GAB has always said that it was going to put the names on line.

If building a data base is not new, what is? Perhaps it is the ability to search the data base. Presumably this data base is searchable, e.g., it can look for duplicates.
Did the GAB have a contract to build a searchable data base prior to Judge Davis' decision? If not, did it have a contract that to build a data base that could be searched through the purchase of an upgrade? If that is so, was the cost of that upgrade in the neighborhood of $ 100,000?
And, it all of that is so, why did the GAB repeatedly say - or at least give the impression -  that it lacked the resources to conduct more than a cursory review of the names?


Anonymous said...

Professor, you stated in a previous post that "Of course, the plaintiffs chose Waukesha because they expected it to be a favorable forum. Having lost, the GAB [crossed out] Democratic groups that attempted [sic] unsuccessfully to intervene have now chosen District IV of the the Court of Appeals which embraces - Dane County. They certainly expect that District IV will be a more favorable forum."

Now, I am wondering why you struck GAB and replaced it with Democratic groups. What was your purpose? Is there some inference to be drawn here, such as the GAB is "in cahoots" with the Democrats?
I thought the GAB consists of several judges who are non-partisan.

IF I am correct with my inference, then what evidence do you have to make that assertion? (ASSUMING that was your purpose)

Just seeking clarification, that's all.

Tom said...

My (admittedly purely conjectural) thoughts: the GAB is just talking up something they were planning on doing anyway and making it sound like it's a more capable process than it really is.

Nick said...

"Putting something online" can mean many many things. For instance, the GAB may have intended on scanning the pages and placing the scanned images online in JPG or PDF form. But just because something is a PDF, doesn't mean its searchable text. It can just be a compressed image, which isn't computer readable, indexable or searchable. Their original intent may have just been to place those images online which would require people to pour over them manually.

In order to create a meaningful database with names, addresses, etc. then you need OCR software (optical character recognition) that can take the squiggles we call handwriting and convert it into text that can be placed and searched in a database.

Of course, anyone who has done anything with OCR knows that this is a technically difficult task depending on the quality of the handwriting.

In order to do a good job, you'd need to somehow link each line in the database back to the original image it came from, because the OCR process may be inaccurate, so anything you flag will have to be validated back against the original image so a human can decide if what was scanned was converted to the database correctly.

Rick Esenberg said...

Anon 7:24 pm

Your inference is incorrect. I made the change because the GAB did not take the appeal. Democratic groups who tried unsuccessfully to intervene in the case did so. I was correcting the original post.

I do not claim - and I do not think - that the GAB is "in cahoots" with Democrats.


I agree. I'm wondering what they agreed to have done, when the agreement was made and how, if at all, it was changed following Judge Davis' decision and at what incremental cost.

Display Name said...

Nick, apart from the GAB finding, buying, installing, and using magical OCR software that can recognize handwriting made on clipboards in cold weather, aren't we all confident that a group like VerifyTheRecall that uses GoDaddy's "WebSite Tonight" product to make their own web site will be able to handle the quick creation of a web-based distributed entry and verification system for volunteers to use to confirm the errors in tens of thousands of scanned images?

This is supposed to be an adversarial process. I don't think we want the government helping one side or the other. If you think the GAB should be in the business of helping Walker strike signatures, why shouldn't the government assist the recall in gathering signatures? You want the GAB to help one but not the other?

I can think of all sorts of government documents that could be online that aren't. The legislature doesn't even adhere to the same open records laws they impose on the most minor of citizen appointee to the most minor of public committee in the smallest township.

Anonymous said...

Anony 7:24 p.m. here. Fair enough, you made the "change" and you provided me an answer to my inquiry.

But why did you strike out GAB and replace it with Democrats rather than simply writing GAB in the first place? You do have the power to edit before you post. You could have easily rewrote the sentence without making the cross out.

Bloggers (like Dad29 and CogDis) purposely write something, strike it out, and then replace those words with something else to make a point.


Rick Esenberg said...

Anon 7:24

You're making too much of this. I crossed it out because I had originally posted that the GAB appealed. I later noticed my error and fixed it but I didn't think it appropriate to hide the fact that my original post was incorrect. It never occurred to me that someone would take it that way.

Unknown said...

-----If you think the GAB should be in the business of helping Walker strike signatures, why shouldn't the government assist the recall in gathering signatures? ----

This is an impossibly skewed nearly incoherentt viewpoint. The GAB is responsible for verification of the number of signatures.

ver·i·fi·ca·tion (vr-f-kshn)
1. The act of verifying or the state of being verified.
a. A confirmation of truth or authority.
b. The evidence for such a confirmation.
c. A formal assertion of validity.

i.e. confirming that there are over 540,000 signatures.

This is for the benefit, not of Walker but for each voter in Wisconsin who wants a free and fair election process.