6th Worcester District Election Trial Coverage

News and commentary of the trial so far:

What I find most interesting is that there is very little talk of the infamous “spoiled absentee ballot” that nobody knew anything about. Perhaps it’s a very small part of the court case, or perhaps its story just wasn’t considered interesting by the reporters. I wish I could have attended the trial to see it all firsthand instead of relying on these reports.

So, closing arguments are this morning. I do wonder how long the judge will take to make a ruling, and whether the House of Representatives will bother following it.

6th Worcester District Election Update

I haven’t updated this in a while, but the election is still in court, even though the legislative session started yesterday. I briefly turned on the video feed of the state house yesterday in the background while I worked, and during the roll call of voting for the Speaker of the House, they called Alicea’s name. It appears Alicea remains state rep for now. I think there was a court hearing today, although I don’t know if there will news coverage of it.

Of course, the court case is really completely irrelevant, since according to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “The house of representatives shall be the judge of the returns, elections, and qualifications of its own members.” (Chapter I, Section III, Article X) This power has been upheld by the state Supreme Court, that any court order to the House relating to the election of someone to the House is merely a suggestion, and that the House can select whomever it wants to be a member of itself. (Larry F. Wheatley v. Secretary of the Commonwealth & another, 2003)

I do have to wonder what the authors of the state constitution were thinking when they wrote that, since it seems very much against the concept of separation of powers to curtail abuse, since I don’t see any reason why the House would ever choose to listen to the people. Although I suppose if another branch could just take over the House, then no separation would exist at all. Maybe there’s just no way to win.

But since one person’s vote is statistically unlikely to actually influence an election, it’s very discouraging that here, in the one time in my life where my vote might have actually mattered, it seems that it won’t have mattered at all, since the House will just do what it wants anyway. It definitely doesn’t make me want to bother to vote for a State Rep. again.

On the plus side, since the recount in Charlton led to exactly the same results for all Charlton precincts, I now have a lot of faith in Charlton’s town election process.

6th Worcester District Recount Update

Following up on my prior post, Oxford’s recount, just like the other towns other than Southbridge, came up with the same exact result as election night. Alicea’s going to bring the election to court. The main issue is an absentee ballot in Southbridge that was in the “spoiled ballots” envelope, marked for Alicea. The spoiled ballots envelope is for if one is at the polls and makes a mistake marking one’s ballot, one can bring it back to a poll worker, who puts it in the spoiled ballots envelope and gives you a new ballot. There’s no reason for an absentee ballot to be in that envelope. The ballot in question is marked as having been run through the voting machine, but rejected by it. So, did a poll worker write out a new ballot for this person and put it in to let the person’s vote count, and thus this person’s vote has already been counted? Or did the poll worker just put the ballot rejected by the machine in the spoiled pile, and thus it still needs to be counted? Nobody seems to know, and it seems that the Board of Registrars in Southbridge decided just to not count it and let the courts figure it out (2–1, on party lines, of course).

Even if the courts do accept and count the ballot, there are other votes that Durant lost in the recount that he thinks might end up in his favor, plus there were all the ballot box issues in Southbridge. My father, who attended several recounts on behalf of the Durant campaign, said that Southbridge was just “chaos” compared to the other towns, and that Southbridge took 7 hours to count less ballots than Charlton counted in 3 hours.

So, it should be an interesting court case to watch.

Related news articles and commentary:

A Recount Timeline

A saga of the election in the 6th Worcester District of the Massachusetts State House, between challenger Peter Durant (R–Spencer) and incumbent Geraldo Alicea (D–Charlton). The district is composed of all of Charlton, East Brookfield, and Southbridge, two of the four precincts in Spencer, and one of the four precincts in Oxford.

A Keyboard Timeline

  • July 9, 2003: I purchase the FingerWorks TouchStream LP, for a total of $343.89 including tax and shipping. I purchase the one with QWERTY printing on it, figuring I’d learn to use it first and learn the Dvorak layout later.
  • Vague Time after that: I do learn to use it, and I fulfill my life goal of learning Dvorak.
  • September 23rd, 2004: I lose connectivity between the halves (the right half plugs into the computer, and the left half connects to the right half through a ribbon cable that’s not designed to be user serviceable), so only the right half of the keyboard works. Presumably, they didn’t test people folding the keyboard and bringing it back and forth to work often. However, I sent it back and they fix it, although it’s annoying to deal with not having it in the meantime.
  • Q2 2005: FingerWorks goes out of business, as Apple gave the owners a deal too good to pass up. Apple hired the brains behind the operation and bought up the IP, which they’ve since slowly been putting to good use (from the iPod wheel, through to the iPhone/iPad and Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad).
  • February 15th, 2007: Once more, the left half of my keyboard doesn’t work. I think that it’s more than the ribbon cable this time, as I think I shocked it with static electricity before it died. So, I sadly put it away hoping to fix it one day, and get used to working with terrible mechanical keyboards and mice again.
  • October 20th, 2008: I try fixing a broken Dvorak-printed TouchStream keyboard (that the owner had managed to remove the ribbon cable from) by buying the ribbon cable and putting it in. Amazingly enough, I’m successful, and manage to purchase the keyboard from the owner for $200. (Fully working ones have been going on eBay for over $1,000, and a couple have gone over $2,000.) Happiness ensues.
  • November 13: 2010: I finally decide to try seeing if I can repair my old keyboard, and see if it’s just the ribbon cable. I extract the cable out and test it, and not all the wires have connectivity. I order a new cable.
  • November 17, 2010: Cable arrives. I insert it. Amazingly enough, the keyboard works and passes diagnostics completely. I now have a working TouchStream at home and one at work. I feel thrilled that it all works, and somewhat silly that I hadn’t tried it much much earlier.

I know that I could get well over $1,000 if I sold one of them on eBay, but I just can’t imagine selling one. They’re just so wonderful to use, and I spend a lot of time in front of a computer.

Annoyance of the Day: Maps and Intellectual Property

For Christmas 2007, I received a TomTom ONE 3rd Edition GPS Navigation System as a gift from my parents. While I don’t often do a lot of traveling beyond my daily commute to work, I do occasionally, so it’s come in quite handy, particularly as we don’t have a cell phone with which to communicate with someone else en-route if we get lost. However, over the past two and a half years, roads have changed. The only significant change in the local area that I’m aware of is the 146/I-290 intersection, but it’s likely that other roads have changed as well, and the point of a GPS is to navigate me through the places I’m not familiar with.

So, I decided I’d finally get around to hooking it up to my computer and seeing how one goes about updating it. The TomTom software happily offered to update me to the latest version, plus the next 18 months of map updates, for the low low price of somewhere around $75. Since I think that’s around the cost of a new unit, I’m not planning on going that route.

It’s interesting how valuable map data is. It’s an interesting form of intellectual property, in that one would think that most of it would be available from public domain sources. But somehow it’s not, and so the various mapping companies (there’s only one or two, I think, that just license the data to the various GPS manufacturers and online mapping providers) spend a lot of effort collecting the data, by driving around every road they can with their own GPS, and noting the various street signs. I suspect that one of the main driving forces behind Google’s Street View car is actually to collect the mapping data themselves so they can at some point stop buying it from other sources. The Google Maps application for Apple’s iOS doesn’t integrate with the built-in GPS in the later-model iPhones since Google hasn’t paid for that use of the mapping data, or so I’ve been told. It seems that companies that use map data as a business model have found that driving around to collect data is more efficient and/or accurate than trying to use various public domain sources such as government records of roads being constructed.

If there’s a lot of effort that goes into creating accurate maps, it makes some sense for them to be protected by copyright law. But since we’re all so used to going to online mapping services that offer their services for free, it feels like map data ought to be free. There’s one organization I know of that is trying to create a free wiki-like map. I have no idea how accurate or complete they’ve gotten. I’m not aware of anyone working on loading free third-party map data into commodity GPS hardware, although I assume it must be possible.

I think this is just another poorly-constructed rant as I’m annoyed that I can’t get current map data on my GPS. That’s all.

Annoyance of the Day: S/MIME and Mac Mail

S/MIME has what in my opinion is a flaw: There’s no authentication of the time that a message is sent. As far as I can tell, there’s not even any proposed extensions out there trying to fix this. As a result, when one signs an email message with a valid certificate, and then the expiration date of the signing certificate passes, one gets an error when one then later tries to read the email message, as the authenticity of the message can no longer be verified. (Signed code doesn’t have this problem, as the signer can have a third party add a signed timestamp to the code signature, so that the code can still be verified as having been signed by a valid certificate as of the date of the signature, even after the certificate’s expiration date.)

The practical upshot of that is, then when using S/MIME to sign one’s mail, one wants to renew the certificate and start using the new certificate a couple months before the expiration date of an older certificate. You want people that you email to be able to authenticate that your messages are genuine for at least a couple months.

So, for this period of at least a couple months, one would have two valid personal certificates installed on one’s system, the old one that expires in a couple months, and the new one (that would typically expire in a year). When sending email, one would pretty much always want to be signing with the newest certificate that has the latest expiration date. But, one wants to have both installed, in order to be able to decrypt messages sent that were encrypted to either key.

Mac Mail (and/or Mac Keychain Access, which it uses) doesn’t seem to see things that way. In Apple’s characteristic style, signing mail “just works” and there are no options to configure it. In particular, it just uses the first signing certificate that’s installed which is valid for the sending email addresses. And by “first signing certificate”, I mean the one that was installed first, which is going to be the one with the soonest expiration date.

So, whenever I renew my certificate and install the new one, I need to go into Mac Keychain Access, export the old certificate, delete it from the Keychain, and re-import it. That way, the old certificate is no longer the first signing certificate, and Mac Mail signs using the correct newest certificate that has the latest expiration date.

This is a real shame, because in most ways Mac Mail’s handling of S/MIME is just perfect, since it does “just work” without any configuration. I just needed to get this annoyance off my chest. Thank you for reading.