What does a paper recount establish?

From: David Mertz <voting-project_at_gnosis_dot_cx>
Date: Thu Aug 19 2004 - 13:48:35 CDT

OK, I promised no more on the Venezuelan recall. But this Houston
Chronicle article at:

   http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/world/2745354

Raised some obvious analogies with what might occur with future USAian
OVC systems. Just more background on the recall: The recall proponent
vigorously opposed the use of new voting machines that produced paper
trails/ballots (exactly what they are is not 100% clear to me; I don't
know Venezuelan law); instead, the "Si" advocates strongly wanted to
continue using the DREs produced by our good friends ES&S.
Interesting, that.

The Venezuelan machines are very close to the OVC system. They have a
touchscreen voting system that records the vote electronically, but
also produces a paper indicating the vote. That paper is examined by a
voter, then deposited in a ballot box. Currently, a statistical
recount is going on, with random polling places being selected for
comparison of electronic and paper records. The Chronicle describes it
as:

> Most of Sunday's voting was conducted on a new electronic system. Once
> a vote was cast, the machines produced a paper receipt, which could be
> checked by the voter for accuracy before being deposited in a ballot
> box.

Well, the recall advocates are OPPOSING the recount by the OAS and the
Carter Center. E.g.:

> "The audit is superfluous," said Nelson Rampersad, an anti-Chavez
> congressman. "There was a perverse mechanism installed in the voting
> system."

In apparent rationalization of opposing a paper count, the
anti-Chavezistas point to facts like:

> The audit is comparing those receipts with the electronic tal-ly.
> Because not all paper ballots may have been deposited in the boxes,
> observers say, the electronic and physical votes might not match
> perfectly.

Well... of course OVC systems are going to have this same issue. Some
voters will print ballots on EVMs, but not CAST them into the ballot
box (without explicitly "spoiling" the ballot for records). I don't
know exactly how many. Certainly, prominent signs and instruction by
poll workers can help reduce this number. But we're not going to get
it down to zero. Some voters will misunderstand the system, and think
they have a receipt... but ultimately, some voters can do this to
maliciously reduce confidence in the voting systems.

And it's not hard to imagine USAian candidates being very sore losers,
and trying to get political weight out of the inevitable slight
discrepancies between EBIs and paper ballots.

It's an open-ended question, of course. But what do we do about such
future OVC discontents, however obviously politically-motivated they
might be?
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Received on Tue Aug 31 23:17:16 2004

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