Please Evaluate This Ballot Selection Procedure

From: Kathy Dopp <kathy_dot_dopp_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Tue Jan 16 2007 - 23:10:37 CST

I would really appreciate your comments on this selection procedure
for "randomly selecting" ballots that was proposed by Paul Velleman.

What do you think of it? Thank you.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Paul Velleman <pfv2@cornell.edu>
Date: Jan 16, 2007 6:31 PM
Subject: Re: [ei] Re: Hand Counting vs Auditing

OK. This is probably unwise, since I am sure there are better ways,
and I haven't studied them. So this comes with a caveat: I haven't
studied all of the issues involved. So this is just to show a
reasonable method can be devised easily and not a finalized or
studied proposal.

There is nothing wrong with a systematic or partly systematic sample
for this purpose. We want to get a representative sample and give
every flawed ballot an equal chance to be audited. We also want to
make it difficult to subvert the audit.

I would do the following:

1) Generate a fresh set of random numbers. For example, use
www.random.org, which is public, cannot be influenced, and generates
truly random numbers. Generate random integers between 0 and 9.

2) Stack up the ballots. I don't care how, as long as it doesn't
involve actually reading them. If they come out of the box in order,
that's fine.

3) Optionally, shuffle the ballots. This isn't important, but could
help make citizens more confident.

4) Take the first random integer. Count that many down from the top
of the stack.

5) Then take every nth ballot. For example, for a 10% audit, examine
every 10th ballot.

6) Whenever any of the observing parties requests it, take the next
random digit and count past that many ballots, then resume systematic
sampling.

This is not a simple random sample, but it should be sufficient for
auditing. In fact, if the ballots have some natural order (e.g. the
order in which they were cast) it would have the advantage of being
somewhat stratified--for example, it would be guaranteed to sample
roughly the same proportion of early votes as of late ones.

-- Paul
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Received on Tue Jan 1 14:12:45 2008

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