Image from MSNBC.com
First name on list – Write the context and post to website
An algorithm’s cultural bias is negatively impacting Georgia voters’ ability to vote. The name on the voter’s registration must match exactly with the voter’s ID. The algorithm does not, however, account for special characters in voters’ names, which affects people of color and immigrants more than Caucasian voters, or misspellings.
Second name on list – Describe how the algorithm makes its decisions
The algorithm requires the voter registration application to match the person’s driver’s license, state ID card or social security records.
Third name on list – Describe 3 types of bias that the algorithms may be susceptible to
The algorithm described may be biased to varying degrees of pre-existing biases. The first bias would be the pre-existing societal/cultural bias. This bias involves missing special characters like a hyphen in someone’s last name. The last names of white Americans tend to have fewer or no special characters as opposed to other cultures which have a higher percentage of the population with special characters in their names. The second bias would be the pre-existing societal and emergent bias. This bias deals with discrepancy between maiden and married names, which can be an issue for folks that are married yet have their documents under a different surname. It is biased towards those who have not been married before, and favors those who have consistent documentation. The third bias that the algorithm encounters is the pre-existing individual bias. This bias is the misspelling someone would have in government records. The individual who input the names into the government system would commonly have to be using an American keyboard, which does not account for names that have special characters as those are not easily accessible in a common keyboard. This would result in people having their last names be put in a system incorrectly, which results in a mismatch between the voter and the system information.
Fourth name on list – What is the effect of unchecked bias in this system?
When the bias went unnoticed, approximately 53,000 applicants were put on hold, this is most likely due to people accidentally leaving out or added apostrophes, certain characters, or used short versions of names such as “Tom” instead of Thomas. Voters on this “pending list” cannot vote in-person or by mail on absentee ballots. 70% of these applicants kept on pending were African American, and many of them may not even know that they were put on hold. And since African Americans make up 32% of the Georgian population, a very large chunk of the population would be left out of the voting process. And so due to this bias, many minorities aren’t allowed to vote, thus causing voter suppression.