RE: Security issues beyond ballots

From: Steve Chessin <steve_dot_chessin_at_sun_dot_com>
Date: Wed Apr 14 2004 - 21:11:11 CDT

>From Wed Apr 14 10:58:30 2004
>From: "Popkin, Laird (WMG Corp)" <>
>To: "''" <>
>Subject: RE: [voting-project] Security issues beyond ballots
>AFAIK, many states have a legal definition of 'randomization'. For example,
>I've read that in CA they publish the lists of candidates in alphabetical
>order, which each precinct starting with a candidate so that overall there's
>no bias.

Actually, in California, we use a randomized alphabet. The Secretary
of State draws letters from a rotating drum that determines the
collating sequence for a given election. For races that span more than
one Assembly district, the names are rotated by one (first becomes
last, the rest move up by one) for each subsequent Assembly district.
For Assembly races that span more than one county, each county gets to
use its own randomized alphabet. (I'm oversimplifying and leaving out
exceptions; if you want the gory details, go to
and look for section 13111.)

Some jurisdictions in Australia use something called the Robson
Rotation, after Neil Robson, a fine gentleman from Tasmania whom I had
the pleasure to meet in 1997. The names on the ballot are in a fixed
(alphabetical? randomly-selected) order; Robson Rotation means that the
names get rotated on each subsequent ballot so that every name appears
at the top the same number of times. Of course, until recently, they
used hand-counted paper ballots for all their elections, so it just
meant more print setups and then proper procedures so each voter got
the next ballot in the rotation.

I'm not sure what they did when they transitioned to touch-screens.
(They used ranked voting -- IRV and Choice Voting -- in almost all
their elections, so they never went to levers or punch cards that make
it difficult to ranked your choices. Even optical scan doesn't have
the best UI for that.)

>(though you could argue that the candidate that is at the top in LA
>has an advantage over the candidate that starts at the top in San Jose...).

Not if it rotates by precinct (since all precints have roughly the same
number of voters) or by Assembly District (ditto).

--Steve (from California)
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Received on Fri Apr 30 23:17:06 2004

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