Re: More on barcodes, etc

From: Ed Kennedy <ekennedyx_at_yahoo_dot_com>
Date: Sun Apr 24 2005 - 21:55:25 CDT

Hello Charlie:

As I recall the objections to OCR instead of bar codes had to do with voter
privacy and reading reliability. Defenders of bar codes said that the error
checking routines built into bar codes would make it easier to get a proper
read at both the Reading Impaired vocalizing station and with general ballot
reading. There was also a reasonable concern about extraneous marks on a
paper ballot. I think the discussion centered around the voter with a
chocolate bar. Personally I like OCR but I think that making it a customer
option choice is now the best idea. I'll add to the argument by noting that
an orientation towards OCR could make the transition from traditional mark
sense ballot easier. However, I've had a pool level of success in using
general OCR in the past.

Thanks, Edmund R. Kennedy
Always work for the common good.
10777 Bendigo Cove
San Diego, CA 92126-2510
I blog now and then at: <>
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Charlie Strauss" <>
To: "Open Voting Consortium discussion list" <>
Sent: Monday, April 18, 2005 7:43 AM
Subject: Re: [OVC-discuss] More on barcodes, etc
> 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 23:17:12 2005

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