Re: Not your ordinary barcode

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Sun Apr 18 2004 - 13:53:04 CDT

> This barcode can subsequently be used for machine counting
> the ballots . . . but it is very difficult for the voter to verify that
> the barcode actually encodes the votes he or she intends . . .
> and there lies the problem! ..........
I don't think it will be much of a problem. In our full study, we'll find

Our plan has a verification station with a scanner at each polling place.
This is required to enable a reading impaired voter to verify their ballot.
But it can also be used by a sighted voter (and able to read) to verify that
the barcode matches the text. Only a small percentage of people will
actually use the verification station but the verification station will give
a very high level of confidence that it is correct.

For one thing, the error rate on the barcode will be very very small. For
the demo, we are encoding a 40-digit decimal number. We have error
detection code that exploits the fact that there are a very large number of
possible 40-digit numbers while only a small percentage of them can
represent valid ballots. So the odds are very very high that any read error
will also result in detection of an impossible ballot.

Another thing: the ballot reconciliation procedure verifies that the data
encoded in the barcode matches what's in the corresponding electronic ballot
image from the voting machine.

While these things don't make it trivial for the voter to directly verify
the accuracy of the barcode, any suspicion they have can be dispelled pretty
readily with the architecture we've described. I doubt seriously that
anyone will have any problem with it. Of course, we won't really know until
we do some testing.

Some very smart people including Doug Jones have suggested that the barcode
also be human readable. I think it's a very bad idea. Most people will
have difficulty figuring out how to read the barcode and correlate that with
selections made. This involves extra steps and confusion for the voter.
It's unnecessary.

Finally, it should be understood that the system's ability to allow a
reading impaired voter to vote privately and unassisted is an ABSOLUTE
REQUIREMENT. A human readable barcode creates a problem there. You can't
ask a blind person to expose their ballot to get it verified.

I don't claim to have the final answer on that. The real answer will come
when we have the funding to do a real R&D project that will include tons of
Human Factors testing to explore these kinds of issues.

In the mean time, I find your argument unconvincing. It would help everyone
if newcomers would read what has already been said on this list regarding
the particular issue they want to discuss. This is a constant problem we've
had for many months. We had this problem when our archive had less than
1,000 messages. Now it's more than 2,000 messages. We've always said that
it would be much easier once we have the FAQ in place. now the FAQ is there
but it's 26 pages. Now I have to say that a more complete and better
indexed FAQ will help newcomers.

Alan D.

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Received on Fri Apr 30 23:17:10 2004

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