BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Tom Hanks doesn’t normally play the bad guy. However, in the 2017 technology thriller The Circle, he is definitely the face and brain behind a sinister Silicon Valley company that has the ability to learn and the computer storage to retain way too much information about virtually everyone.
The concept is not far-fetched. For instance, a few months ago I was looking at an iPhone app that would allow users to create digital caricature of themselves to use online and in text messages, etc. During the process, a button popped up that informed the user that to create the final product, they would be required to accept the terms and conditions of a “user agreement.”
Alarmingly, the lengthy “user agreement” contained in fine print, language that the user was “consenting” to have their keystrokes logged and tracked. While keystroke tracking is of absolutely no benefit to the user, the creator of the app is benefited greatly, even if they had no malicious intent.
In truth and fact, most of us have already been identified, profiled and categorized by a multitude of companies due to the “cookies” that attach to our browsing habits. Case in point: two or three years ago, I checked the online airfare for a round trip to Boston and now a week doesn’t go by that I am notified of “great deals” on a Boston vacation.
So while the theme of The Circle was disturbing, one of the “services” that the fictional company offered was that signing up for a Circle account would automatically register the account holder to vote.
As the company’s sinister nature became evident, I was blissfully thankful that here in the good old USA, voter registration is handled by government agencies such as Oklahoma’s State Election Board.
My bliss ended this week; the Republican governor of Maryland, and its Senate president and House speaker, both Democrats, conducted a hastily called news conference on Friday to announce that a billionaire Russian investor named Vladimir Potanin, had purchased the software vendor, ByteGrid, LLC, that maintains that state’s voter registration system, candidacy and election management system, as well as its online ballot delivery system and election night return website.
The elected officials issued a bipartisan request for the Maryland attorney general to investigate and sought assistance from federal officials. Oklahoma and 48 other states should heed this action and at least verify that their election systems are not utilizing this vendor’s software.
In any event, Oklahoma is coming off of a June 26 primary election that has the pundits baffled. Turnout in the primary was 891,654 which was more than twice the 432,757 voters that cast ballots in Oklahoma’s last gubernatorial primary. The 2018 primary even eclipsed the 2014 general election for governor ballot total of 824,831, by more than 8%.
There is little doubt that the medical marijuana question drove numbers up. One indicator of that is that more than 45,000 voters went to the polls last month and voted on that question only and either left the rest of the ballot blank or didn’t even request a full ballot.
Most analysts also cite the number of candidates who filed and the number of voters who are very frustrated with a decade of educational underfunding as pushing turnout up. Whatever the reason, the greater the number of citizens who vote, the better it is for Oklahoma.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House