Our first election hack that doesn’t involve e-ballots

Because some of Hackaday’s readers aren’t from America, let us fill you in on the US election process from the point of view as a voter. Over the next few weeks, political campaigns will dump millions of dollars into advertising, get-out-the-vote and canvassing efforts across the country. The airwaves will broadcast still more ads and political analyses until November 6th, when voters will go to the polls and pull the lever for whoever earned their vote back in July.

Despite how effectively public opinion can be swayed, there are still a lot of problems with the election process in the United States. A first-past-the-post, winner take all system guarantees there will only ever be two realistic choices for voters, but a group of philosophy students (and teachers) may have a solution to this problem.

The idea is fairly simple, really: take dissatisfied members of one party and match them up with dissatisfied members of another party. Normally, these voters would be inclined to vote the party line and not their conscience, for fear of throwing their vote away. After matching these voters up, they make a gentleman’s agreement with each other (either with a handshake or by mailing in their ballots together) to not vote the party line. The balance of power between (D)s and (R)s remains, but third-party candidates get a much-needed shot in the arm.

It’s an interesting idea with far more potential to effect some change than the numerous e-voting hacks that will pop up after the election. Sure, it may not be as effective as other voting systems such as the Condorcet method, but save for elected officials abdicating powers granted to them, this might be the best shot we’ve got.

Multi-Color fog spreader


Though we’re pretty sure this was meant for Halloween, we think it would be a perfect addition to your election night party. [marc92] shows us how he built a fog spreader with red or blue lighting. Fog machines generally spit out the fog from a single point, relying on the breeze to spread it around. [marc92] wanted it spread a little more evenly, as well as some nice mood lighting. He built a pipe system that would emit fog from a much larger area. Mounted on the pipe are red and blue LEDs.  Mix this with some of the election lighting systems and you’re set for a party. We know this is an extremely simple project, so it should give you plenty of time to get out and vote before the polls close.

Election night holographic interviews


Instead of the normal head in a window or split screen display used when interviewing remote guests, [Wolf Blitzer] will be interviewing 3d holograms. Supposedly, they will be recording in a way that allows for 360 views to be projected on stage with [Wolf]. We’ll have to wait and see exactly how they plan to pull that off, but our suspicion is that it will be similar to the Gorillaz live performances. Join us after the break to watch one.

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Colorize your election party

[Eric] has put together a simple python script to scrape election results from CNN.com. It uses urllib2 to return the popular and electoral votes for each party and throws an ElectionWon exception when CNN calls the race. He’s planning on hooking this to DMX controlled RGB LED lighting that will shift to either blue or red as the night progresses. It’s a great starting point if you want to pull off something similar.

You may remember [Eric] for building the IKEA MAME table and the TRS-80 wireless terminal.

[photo: skenmy]

UPDATE: [Garrett] of macetech is putting the finishing touches on his version which uses 32 ShiftBrite modules and 2 4-digit displays controlled by a CuBLOC.

Voting insecurities

UCSB researchers demonstrated how disturbingly easy it is to hack into Sequoia’s e-voting systems and delete or add votes with little more than a USB key. Given the fact that recent elections have been very close, and this upcoming national one looks also to be decided by a close margin, it’s absolutely inexcusable that our voting systems could be so easily rigged. Not only that, Sequoia has fought hard against having its equipment tested and verified independently. Can we really afford to be using such insecure machines in democratic elections, when the risk of abuse is so great?

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