Re: Ballot disclosure and vote anonymity/coercion

From: Douglas W. Jones <jones_at_cs_dot_uiowa_dot_edu>
Date: Sun Dec 14 2003 - 14:48:59 CST

As just pointed out, our rules about anonymous ballots are not
perfect. We speak, in the United States, as if all ballots
are anonymous and as if there is no way of signing your ballot,
but there are several:

1) Agree, before hand, that you will sign your ballot with a
    write-in vote for, say, Mortimer P. Fumbledung for County
    Drainage Commissioner.

2) Agree, before hand, that you will sign your ballot with a
    specific series of votes on the judicial retention races,
    say yes,no,yes,yes,no,yes,no,no,no,yes. You don't care
    about any of these races, so you're using these votes to
    encode a binary number.

Both of these schemes work as approaches to signing your ballot
with almost every voting technology in use in the United States.
The exception is lever voting machines; it doesn't work with them
because there is no ballot retained by the machine.

All you need is an insider in the vote counting center to notice
your ballot. Write-in votes are particularly effective ways of
revealing your vote because these are always subject to manual
processing.

So, if the OVC scheme has these problems too, it's not a disaster.

I should note that the Swiss approach to processing multi-race
paper ballots solves this problem!

When the Swiss print multiple-races on one ballot intended to be
hand counted, they perforate the paper (heavy paper, light card),
and before counting, they tear the ballot into sub-ballots, one
per race. They're generally careful to make the sub-ballots
different sizes so that misplaced sub-ballots are trivially
evident. Then, the sub-ballots of each race are sorted into piles
by how they voted, and then the piles are either counted (or
in rare cases, weighed. Weighing the piles avoids almost all the
problems with clerical errors in counting, but it does rely on the
extreme uniformity of paper size and weight for each sub-ballot.)

                                Doug Jones
                                jones@cs.uiowa.edu
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Received on Wed Dec 31 23:17:11 2003

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