Re: Question re ballot limitations - Automark vs. Punch-card Ballots

From: Joseph Lorenzo Hall <joehall_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Sun Apr 24 2005 - 23:34:11 CDT

On 4/24/05, Kathy Dopp <> wrote:
> Is it true that the total quantity of ballot issues, races, and
> candidates that can be handled by a punch-card ballot is larger than
> what can be handled on a large-sized (8.5"x17") op scan paper ballot
> that AutoMark uses?

So Utah [uses the Votomatic punchcard system][1]... however, there are
a few different types of punch cards for that. Check out [Doug Jones
great run down on punch cards][2].


The uppermost punch card on Doug's page is what we used to vote on
here in Alameda county before we got AccuVote-TSs. It has 228
possible holes (although I'm not sure if you can set up a punch card
ballot display -- the thing that flips to expose the next column of
holes -- for that many elections... I don't see why not.

So, how many can an optical scan ballot at 8.5" x 17" hold (both
sides)? Well, here's a bunch of images of optical scan ballots:


If we assume that the thickest they can pack choices is about 3 per
inch and that each side has a total of 3 columns max. This is 3 votes
per inch * 17" * 3 columns * 2 sides = 306 votes on a fully-packed
op-scan ballot. This number drops to 204 votes if we assume only 2
votes per inch and 153 if we assume only one side at three votes per

So, I'd say that they're comparable, to first order. And have we ever
seen evidence of any race with more than 150 individual choices on it?
 Unless I'm mistaken, the California recall, at 135 candidates, was
the longest ballot ever (please correct me if I'm wrong on this).

Joseph Lorenzo Hall
UC Berkeley, SIMS PhD Student
blog: <>
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Received on Sat Apr 30 23:17:12 2005

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