Government, technology don't always mix

U.S. President Barack Obama looks on during a U.S. President Barack Obama looks on during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C. (Nov. 1, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Dan Janison Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison,

Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997, initially as a staff writer for the New

The federal website fiasco surrounding President Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act appears to create the highest-impact and most politically charged snafu of its kind to date. While hardly the first flop to occur at the intersection of government and technology, it underscores an obvious point: that the administration and its contractors should have better prepared the project before rolling it out.

Other examples abound. Think of the bureaucratic ordeal that preceded electronic voting in New York. Or recall how computer-aided dispatch systems for emergency vehicles have long encountered multiple problems from one region to the next. Or consider the criminal-fraud scandal surrounding New York City's implementing a new payroll system. Or the system failure at a major contracting firm a few weeks ago that left people in 17 states unable to use debit-style food-stamp cards.

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"History has never judged programs by the ambitious and hard-won legislation that crafted them. They're judged by how they're implemented," states writer Joseph Marks on the tech-oriented website Nextgov.com. "And, these days, that nearly always includes how well the technology underlying them functions."

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Electronic vote-casting returns Tuesday in New York City. The September primary in the five boroughs featured a brief return of old lever voting machines -- for logistical reasons related to the law requiring a runoff when no city candidate gets 40 percent or more. This week voters will resume marking paper ballots and placing them in the newer counting devices. And here's a warning to those who dislike the small print on those ballots: The size of the type will be 6 points -- smaller than last year's. Officials say this is because of the many city races and state proposals filling both sides of the ballot.

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CLINTON WATCH: In Nassau, former President Bill Clinton recently stumped for Democratic county executive candidate Thomas Suozzi (just as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani endorsed incumbent GOP Executive Edward Mangano and other regional Republicans). In Virginia, the ex-president campaigned for Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic national chairman running for governor. And Hillary Clinton did a fundraiser for New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio. The question yet to be answered, of course, is whether chits will be collected for a 2016 presidential run by the former secretary of state.

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