Mark Pelczarski was accessible to retire. This was 2011; he was teaching computer science in Chicago by then, but that was absolutely aloof the apogee on a allegorical career in software. In 1979, Pelczarski wrote Magic Paintbrush, an artmaking affairs for the Apple II, the aboriginal claimed computer able of color. He started Penguin Software two years after to broadcast abstract like Graphics Magician, and in the backward 1980s he went on to advance music software, actualize a CD-ROM forerunner to Google Maps, and comedy animate drums with Jimmy Buffett. It’s safe to say that computers attending and complete the way they do, at atomic a little bit, because of Mark Pelczarski’s code.
But aloof back he was about to alarm it quits, the arch of tech for Barack Obama’s reelection attack alleged him, allurement if any of Pelczarski’s acceptance ability accept internship abeyant for their tech team. Pelczarski asked what affectionate of abilities the Obamaites were attractive for. “It was a little bit above what my acceptance could do, but I was in my aftermost division at that point,” Pelczarski says. “I said, ‘I ability be able to advice you a little bit.’”
He concluded up alive at attack address for the abutting year as a affectionate of adaptable asset, active a aggregation that apparent the adamantine tech problems for departments as assorted as finance, oppo, and data. That’s back the association on the attack amenable for accepting voters to the polls—and authoritative abiding they didn’t accept to delay in continued lines—came by. The balloter accident of 2000 led to all kinds of changes in the law and the addition of lots of new voting technologies; continued curve in 2004 had afresh brought chaos. In the name of “voter protection,” this aggregation was alive with a averse spreadsheet that was declared to appraisal the accommodation of a accustomed polling abode based on abstracts like how abounding check-in stations and voting machines it had and how abounding bodies were acceptable to vote there—the numbers canton acclamation workers use to plan for what anniversary base needs so anybody can vote fast.
Keeping bodies from voting is suppression—whether it comes from articulacy tests, men with guns, or aloof authoritative things abuse inconvenient. This is the raw acumen of democracy, the being that happens at the canton and belt akin that determines the outcomes of American elections. So of advance it goes awry. Like, all the time.
The Obama aborigine aegis aggregation showed Pelczarski their spreadsheet and asked him if he could amend it. Pelczarski had accounting his aboriginal computer simulation as a aerial academy apprentice in the 1970s, to adumbrate accessible outcomes for the World Series. He wrote it in Fortran. On bite cards. So, yeah, he could amend the spreadsheet.
“I basically absitively to address a simulation affairs to footfall little apish voters through a polling place, based on check-in stations, voting booths, acclamation scanners, and all that stuff,” Pelczarski says. “So I spent a lot of time researching what affectionate of abstracts was accessible from antecedent elections. It took a lot of digging.”
Unlike this year, back curve are continued again.
But why? Well, that’s both depressingly simple and blindingly complex. Pelczarski’s digging brought him to a specific circle on the map of analysis into how capitalism functions—a abode area political science and folklore cantankerous over with mathematics and operations research. One way to accept why bodies sometimes delay a continued time to vote is by application a acreage of algebraic alleged queueing theory. But to accept what causes the queues … ah, well, that accountability lies forth added lines.