Re: [OVC-discuss] draft of text for new OVC-sponsored bill

From: David Mertz <>
Date: Sat Jan 24 2009 - 16:11:50 CST

> To put it another way: if a voter takes a "fill in the bubble" or
> similar sheet of paper and marks it, it's not critical that they ever
> re-read and proof it. They made their marks and it's now 100%
> impossible that something or somebody else manipulated those marks
> before it gets to the ballot box.

This seems like the main flaw in the thinking of the HCPB folks.

As much as it appeals to a worthwhile distrust of technology, the
odds of a voter incorrectly marking intention using a pencil and
bubbles is MUCH LARGER than the odds that an OVC-style ballot printer
(with admittedly spotty and imperfect voter verification) will
incorrectly mark it.

This is equally true for the case of selective presentation and other
voting-bias attacks, most of which apply equally well to how paper is
laid out as how a computer screen is.

There are several factors that go into this, and I admit I am
guessing on probabilities. My own hunch is pretty darn strong though.

A) Chance a voter will innocently fill in the wrong bubble (due to
unbiased human error)
B) Chance a paper ballot will systematically bias votes due to
presentation flaws (whether accidental or malicious)

C) Chance a voter will innocently select the wrong part of a computer
interface (unbiased human error)
D) Chance the ballot printer will print a ballot that does not match
the computer interface selection (accidental or malicious error).

E) Here's the compound part. It is clearly true that only a
relatively small number of voters will *actually* verify their
ballots. Moreover, many of those who attempt to will proof-read
poorly, and fail to detect an error in the printout.

E1) Nonetheless, SOME voters will accurately proof-read printed
ballots, meaning that the probability that an undetected, systematic
error in transmission of the computer interface to the printed ballot
will be statistically insignificant. Let me emphasize this again:
errors emerge in the sample size, however poor individual proofing
might be, as long as it is *better than random*.

E2) Some percentage of voters who make an accidental error in the
computer interface will detect that on examination of the printed
ballot (not all, probably not most, but SOME).

The overall result is ALMOST CERTAINLY a greater accuracy of
representation of voter intention in an OVC-style system than in a
strict hand-filled ballot. all the other nice properties like access for voters with
disabilities, randomization of candidate order, easier interfaces for
things like ranked-preference voting, better audit-trails, etc.

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Received on Thu Jan 7 00:09:51 2010

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