Re: More on barcodes, etc

From: Charlie Strauss <cems_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Mon Apr 18 2005 - 09:43:45 CDT

If were going to dicsuss barcodes, perhaps someone could layout what
the plausible objections are. In particular why are the current
optical scan machines not basically an abstract form of bar code
reader? So perhaps the objection is that a pen/wand reader that must
be stroked along an edge is some how more fiddley for the blind or
handicapped. Well then do these same people have problems with
magstripes on credit cards which even though you cant see it is a
bar-code? Credit cards are easy to use because of those nifty grooves
you swipe them through.

There's nothing in principle to prevent optical scan from being either
rigged to an edge swipe like a credit card, or be machine fed like an
traditional optical scan, or even using a stand-off bar code reader
like the supermarket. It's a matter of cost and practice to decide
what works.

But OVC is not backing itself into a corner using bar codes, in my
opinion. Thus I would be somewhat wary about deciding if bar codes are
good based on some under funded human factors bake-off. As long as the
initial systems are reasonably acceptable we can expect improvements.

On Apr 17, 2005, at 9:24 PM, David Mertz wrote:

> I want to thank Alan for his excellent summary of the barcode/OCR
> issues. Most of what he writes has been discussed in bits and pieces
> on this list[*], but Alan puts it all nicely in one place.
> [*] I apologize for the current archive down time--I'm trying to get
> it straightened out with the volunteered hosting service.
> In fact, I think this description is definitely nice enough to add to
> the FAQ, or put elsewhere as a semi-permanent document on the OVC
> website.
> Basically, I do not disagree with Alan that there are pros and cons of
> barcodes vs. OCR scans of ballots. In fact, I do not disagree that
> any of his pros are pros, or that any of his cons are cons. I might
> weight them slightly differently overall (with a slight tilt on my
> part to disfavor barcodes). But ultimately, voter perceptions and
> usability needs to be surveyed and studied to say anything definite.
> One thing I definitely agree with Alan on is that computer SHOULD be
> involved in the verification and tabulation process. Not solely
> computers--human eyeballs need to do spot checks and the like--but
> there's absolutely no reason not to take advantage of things computers
> can do efficiently, like scanning sheets of paper (whatever the exact
> style of scanner, and whatever exact features of the page it looks
> at).
> Btw. We could very well run a mock election where both OCR and barcode
> stations were present simultaneously. OCR fonts really are quite
> readable--take a look at OCR-B samples on the web, for example--so a
> ballot can be printed with both scannable features. In a mock
> election, we could let some (sighted or blind) users run the OCR
> verification station, and others run the barcode verification station.
> Even randomly assigned per voter, since both would vocalize the same
> ballot. And ask some followup questions about the verification
> experiences afterwards.
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Received on Sat Apr 30 23:17:09 2005

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