Re: How dark is a mark?

From: Douglas W. Jones <jones_at_cs_dot_uiowa_dot_edu>
Date: Wed Dec 19 2007 - 09:24:53 CST

On Dec 18, 2007, at 11:41 PM, Danny Swarzman wrote:

> Does anyone know what practical test is used to determine if a
> scanner is sufficiently sensitive?


Both reports include reports on tests of mark-sense scanners to
record their sensitivity to a variety of pens and pencils. Here
is my advice based on a decade of doing such testing, first for
the State of Iowa:

All scanners should be adjusted so that they ignore hesitation
marks -- that is, dots made by using a pencil as a pointer to
note the voting target while reading the adjacent text in order
to decide whether or not to mark that target. Remember, this is
a human-factors problem. The instructions are part of the
equation just as much as the sensors in the machine are!

-- All scanners should be adjusted to ignore a competently made

-- All scanners should be adjusted to reliably sense a single
stroke of the recommended marking device across the voting
target (not necessarily pencil).

-- Do not assume that the voter will use the recommended marking
device. If the marker in the voting booth won't mark and the
lines are long, some voters will use what they have in their
pockets, and for absentee ballots, they will vote with what they
find on the kitchen counter instead of using the micro-pencil
mailed out with the ballot.

-- The instructions should briefly instruct the voter to make
a dark mark filling the voting target. If the scanner is
insensitive to some color, the voter should be instructed not
to use that color.

-- Illustrations for the instructions should bear the same
relationship to the text of the instructions as the voting
targets bear to candidate names. The instructions should show
the voting target both before and after the prescribed mark is

-- The instructions should show the prescribed mark and should
not detail other marks that count as votes. Those more detailed
instructions should be public record, but their intended audience
is those involved in hand recounts.

                Doug Jones

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Received on Mon Dec 31 23:17:06 2007

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