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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, April 19, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

And so the voting is over and we are all happy and we all knew it was a day that was coming. Except, of course, for the people who actually run the elections. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

Election hiccups could offer Milwaukee an opportunity


And so the voting is over and we are all happy and we all knew it was a day that was coming.

Except, of course, for the people who actually run the elections.

It seems like every time we have an election it comes as a surprise to the people in charge of distributing collecting and counting the ballots.

Not enough ballots. Bags of ballots lost. Not enough registration forms. About the only thing they seem to have a hang of is the distribution of those "I Voted" stickers. Anyone who wants one gets one, even people not old enough to vote.

We have very isolated instances of some kind of voter fraud. Some machines break down. Some votes for one candidate get counted for the opposing candidate. Some of the people who run these voting sites must think they are at a mahjong party, rather than a polling place. It's amazing that we actually end up electing someone.

Now, I am the last guy to come up with a solution to this problem. Me and technology have a kind of stormy relationship and neither one of us trusts the other one all that much.

But I do have an idea about how you go about solving problems and I see an incredible opportunity here for Milwaukee.

I understand how we are hitching our star to water technology and how we are going to become the freshwater research hub of the entire world. I think that's a good thing.

But something that might gain even more attention for Milwaukee is if we became the nexus of voting reformation in the country. We could be the lab that drives new ways of handing this process that does two things. Let's make it easier and by doing so let's get more people involved.

Here's what I think should happen.

Tom Barrett (the mayor, remember?) creates a coalition of the city, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and some foundation. Their goal is to create a high-tech voting system that meets our two goals.

The initial onus is on UWM to develop the system. I don't know what it is, but when you look around at the world we live in it's hard to believe that we can't use all this technology to do something as simple as vote. I mean we have computers that guide brain surgeries. Can voting be that hard?

Once UWM is ready to go, Milwaukee citizens become the lab rats. We get the equipment we need. We train the personnel we need. We do all the things we need to do to get ready.

We share our progress with the rest of the world. Brainiacs from all over will rush to Milwaukee to help and be in on the development of this system. The lure of this to geniuses will be unquenchable.

You wonder, no doubt, how we pay for this. Well, the foundation clearly comes into this with a big grant to fund it.

But the city can also kick in funds for this. I'd rather spend city money on this than on the hundreds of government workers, 50 percent of whom I don't what they do and the other 50 percent who don't know what they do.

UWM can find some money for this and we are off and running.

I'm not saying this will happen overnight. But we could get started and I think we'd end up with something that would get lots of attention and really solve some seemingly intractable problem.

Maybe we could get Santiago Calatrava to design a building to house the entire experiment. Then we'd really have something.

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