Princeton Engineering has a number of surprising election connections — most recently, according to a report by the Orlando Sentinel, alumnus Dan Barry has signed up as one of the “Obamanauts,” a group of former astronauts who has endorsed the candidacy of Barack Obama.

Computer science professor Andrew Appel — who this fall is teaching a freshman seminar on election technology — has been in the media spotlight for the past couple of weeks following his report to the New Jersey Superior Court on vulnerability of voting machines to nefarious hacking. Appel’s work has been featured by CNN, Newjersey.com, ABC Eyewitness News, and the New York Times.

Speaking of electronic voting, Mother Jones featured the Hack-a-Vote project at Rice University, which is masterminded by alumnus Dan Wallach, a protege of Ed Felten, director of Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy. Felten is rumored by BusinessWeek and Washingtonian magazine to be on Barack Obama’s short list of candidates for national technology tsar. Yesterday PCWorld published a Q&A with Felten on the security of E-voting.

In other news, Robert Vanderbei, chairman of the Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering, is mashing 2008 election data with his famous purple America map. And Juan Melli, who in September finished his dissertation on “A Hierarchy of Models for the Control of Fish-Like Locomotion,” has been named associate editor of politicker.com.