Re: suggested proposals for federal election integrity legislation

From: Ron Crane <voting_at_lastland_dot_net>
Date: Fri Dec 01 2006 - 15:13:43 CST
Arthur Keller wrote:
At 4:41 PM -0800 11/30/06, Ron Crane wrote:
...
  
Machine marking introduces a variety of security issues (e.g., 
presentation frauds) and badly reduces transparency without giving 
non-disabled voters any significant benefit.
    

That's the camel's nose that begat HAVA under the tent (to badly mix 
and mangle metaphors).

  
The imagery here is almost too vulgar for a public mailing list ;-)
  
 I'd prefer deploying noncomputerized assistive devices (e.g., the 
Vote-PAD) for those who need them to vote independently. Though the 
Vote-PAD cannot assist every disabled voter, it seems that, with 
sufficient effort, someone could improve it enough -- while still 
avoiding computational intermediaries -- that we could call it 
"adequate."
    

I'd like to see work along those lines.

One question is whether is hand-marked paper ballot or an OVC-style 
printed summary ballot is easier for a voter to verify.  
Confining the question to verification by disabled voters, I think the answer is "it depends." On the one hand, nice printed ballots probably are easier to read for those with poor vision than are hand-filled circles or lines on paper ballots. On the other hand, hand-filled ballots don't need the same degree of verification as do machine-printed ballots, since there's no intermediary whose potential fraud the voter needs to protect herself against. With hand-filled ballots, the voter is checking only her own work, not her work and the intermediary's work.
Some 
usability studies are in order here.

The proliferation of ballots styles in a primary means lots of 
supplies are needed for hand-marked paper ballots.  That's an 
argument for blank ballot stock that can be used by electronic ballot 
printers to produce printed summary ballots for the ballot style 
desired by the voter.  Similarly, early voting can be done more 
easily on electronic ballot printers than hand-marked paper ballots 
or the like.

  
I think these are minor questions compared to the security and transparency implications of machine-printed ballots. As I see it, the only case where machine-printed ballots confer a significant benefit that weighs against their risk is where a voter cannot vote independently without using the machine. [1] But the Vote-PAD can help many of the same voters that a ballot printer can, and without the added risk. With additional research, it seems that an improved Vote-PAD could help even more voters.

-R


[1] A ballot printer that also keeps electronic ballot records can provide some protection against some local frauds by exploiting the ability to cross-check electronic and paper records. But I think that's far outweighed by the possibility of global fraud that the ballot printer introduces, not to mention its opacity -- which necessitates expert supervision.

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Received on Sun Dec 31 23:17:03 2006

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