Servers crash, some parisians won’t get to vote in 2014

Jan 1, 2014
Vote on Hacker News

service_public_embouteillagePeople living in Paris had up until the 31st of December to register on the electoral list in their respective administrative districts. Failing that, they would be unable to vote in the upcoming 2014 municipal elections. I won’t get into the absurdity of closing electoral lists months before the actual elections are held, when abstention is a well-known problem, particularly for elections other than the presidential election.

So let’s rewind to the 31st of December. Anne Hidalgo and Nathalie Koscisko-Morizet, the candidates of the two main policitical parties running for in Paris, are going through the motions and calling on voters to register on that last day. Or at least they’re having one canned messages sent on their account to that effect, and nothing more. They were in particular oblivious, despite being called on it, to he fact that the website supposed to allow people to register was down at 2pm on the 31st, and for hours, likely preventing people in the tens of thousand to register.

What’s more, these canned messages both carry the same underlying message about people trying to register on the last day. Let’s take a closer look.

Anne Hidalgo

(Translation : last chance to register on the electoral lists online, later it will be too late. It’s this way http://t.co/KFSp5W6Fao)

Anne Hidalgo’s tweet links to an infographic explaining how to register, but when it comes to registering online, once again the message is that if something goes wrong, the person expecting to register is responsible for it, and not the government agency advertising the availability of this service. The infographic says “beware the traffic jams on the website”, which strikes me as a very cavalier way of shirking responsibility for poor scaling and planning.

Nathalie Koscisko-Morizet

(Translation: A day for people who are late, register online on the elecoral lists in a few minutes http://t.co/tE6ZlLtDmd)

Nathalie Koscisko-Morizet’s tweet calls on these “who are late” to register on this last day. In communication in general, and in politics in particular, every word has layers of meaning. Here, the idea is that a voter who has yet to register, and who for reasons of his or her own, can only do so in the afternoon of the 31st, is somehow late and therefore at fault, though this is still well within the deadline.

So there you have it, if you’re living in Paris, and were trying to register on the 31st in the afternoon, not only was the website down, but no information on the expected downtime was given, nor information on an possible solution, such as an extension that would allow people to register during one extra week for example. All the while, not only did the main candidates ignore it, which other candidates from extreme right and left parties will no doubt try and spin to their advantage, but they actually and preemptively put the responsibility for not being able to vote on the citizens expecting to be able to register as advertised, up to the very end of the deadline.

No one, as of January 1st, 10.30am, seems to be acknowledging this problem, let alone offering a solution. Why bother, right? After all, voting is only one of the most fundamental rights of a citizen in a democracy.