Friday, October 26, 2007

Security and Voting Theatre

Terrorism's point is to terrorize a population in order to change its patterns of behavior, delegitimize authority and provoke responses. A rational and thoughtful approach to countering terrorism will include some changes in behavior to remove, reduce, mitigate or dissipate the impact of a potential attack, but carrying on is a significant part of a healthy society's reaction to random, low probability terrorism threats and events. Panicking, being stupid and non-transparent furthers the aim of disrupting society with little gained from it.

Our frequent correspondant Kat pulled out a doozy of a stupid response to the fears of terrorism, and unfortunately it occurs in my home state of Pennsylvania, from the AP and the Guardian:
State officials have decided not to publicize their list of polling places in Pennsylvania, citing concerns that terrorists could disrupt elections in the commonwealth.

The Department of State was influenced by the terrorist bombings that struck just days before Spain's national elections in 2004, spokeswoman Leslie Amoros said. Election officials consulted with state police, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the state Office of Homeland Security.

``The agencies agreed it was appropriate not to release the statewide list to protect the public and the integrity of the voting process,'' Amoros said.

Information on individual polling places remains available on the state voter services Web site or by calling the state or county elections bureaus.
I weep, and now I have to laugh.

The upcoming PA state elections are municipal elections. I have severe doubts that anyone besides cogs in the local political machines, candidates' spouses and parents and the candidates even know what offices are up for a vote. The Swissvale representative to the Woodland Hills School District Board is ??? and that is the town and district I live in. But really, this is just stupidity, as the article notes that this information is available elsewhere, including the very helpful Allegheny County Election Department polling locator.

In some cases I can understand restricting information. For instance, I could understand a restriction on the federal building security features against car bomb attacks; it is specific, it is technical, and it is operational in nature; I don't need to know that information to be a fully participating citizen in our society. I do need to know where my polling place is located, and as a political activist, I need to have access to good, comprehensive regional polling place locators.

This decision to restrict publicly available information is almost as effective of a security measure as the vast amounts of theatre that is performed daily at the airport. And people wonder why a satirist is running for the Senate and the White House.... they'll be out of a job if this keeps up due to a lack of unique material.

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