Re: FAQ # 25

From: Douglas W. Jones <jones_at_cs_dot_uiowa_dot_edu>
Date: Mon Dec 15 2003 - 15:16:18 CST

On Dec 15, 2003, at 2:11 PM, Popkin, Laird (WMG Corp) wrote:

> OK, here's another attempt on this one:
>
> The system will support blind voters, providing a Blind-Accessible
> Ballot
> System for entering votes and printing the ballots, and the Bar Code
> Vocalization Station for scanning ballots and ensuring that they are
> correct.

I urge that we deemphasize or eliminate the phrase "bar code" from
our discussion. Yes, the prototype uses a bar code, but as quickly
as possible, we should move away from the use of bar codes and toward
OCR, so that all machine recognition of the ballot content uses
identically the same text that the voter verifies when the voter
looks directly at the ballot. In the long run, bar codes should only
be used for machine-to-machine communication of information that is
not intended to be human readable.

The point is, differences between the material presented in the bar
codes and the material presented in human-readable form are possible,
and as soon as it is technically and economically feasible, we ought
to make this problem go away by eliminating the use of bar codes.

Note, we really ought to avoid using general purpose OCR software also,
and instead, make maximal use of the fact that a fixed font is used on
the paper ballot. We can even print fiducial marks (registration marks)
so that the scanning software can trivially locate lines of text.

For this purpose, I recommend that the only material printed on the
voter verifiable ballot be office or issue names and candidate names
or the text YES and NO. Unless someone forces our hands, we don't
need to render in alternate character sets -- non-native English
speakers who want to verify their ballots ought to do so using the
same scanners blind voters would use, and I recommend that we urge
other voters who can read their ballots should also play with the
verifier in order to test it, whenever nobody's using it who really
needs it.

> The Blind-Accessible Ballot System

Again terminology. Call it the "non print accessible" system, since
it also serves the need of voters who speak non-written languages
(New Mexico must face the fact that many of their Native American
tongues are non-written), and it is likely also to serve the needs of
Thai, Urdu, Chinese and other users of non-Roman alphabets.

(Conducting a recount using poly-alphabetic ballots would be awful!
I'd have to trust someone who knows Thai, or whatever, to tell me that
this ideogram means Bush and that ideogram means Gore. Can I trust
them? Can I trust that representatives of both party will be
available who know both alphabets? Ugh.)

> The system will be equipped with recorded spoken messages, headphones,
> and a keyboard, allowing the blind voter to have the system read to
> them
> without any loss of privacy.

This applies to blind voters and also to all others who cannot read
the voter verifiable text. We want to emphasize the breadth of
accomodation we are offering.

(I should also note that Sequoya is working on a similar retrofit
for their system, very expensive, involving presenting the ballot
behind glass, using a very messy looking dense 2D barcode, with a
network connection from the voting machine to the ballot verification
station.)

                                Doug Jones
                                jones@cs.uiowa.edu
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Received on Wed Dec 31 23:17:12 2003

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