Questions for HCPB advocates

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Sun Jul 22 2007 - 20:44:56 CDT

Having watched a video of how they do Hand Counted Paper Ballots (HCPB) in New Hampshire, I know something about how they do it there. However, the ballots were pretty simple with few contests and fairly small jurisdictions. Historically, HCPB in urban areas has been highly corruptible (e.g., Tammany Hall). Mechanization was introduced to combat ballot box stuffing. The lever system was introduced in NY over 100 years ago and, despite various reliability issues with the machines (and no ballot to be counted or recounted), lever machines were pretty successful. They are likely to be used in NY in 2008 because no system is ready under the new certification system there.

HCPB advocates point to the success of HCPB systems used in sparsley populated jurisdictions in Maine and New Hampshire. They say the same system could also work in urban areas.

I have copied below something I wrote today on another list. The response was not very satisfactory -- something like, "we answered those questions, just not the way you wanted."

Now, thanks to the great work of OVC, San Francisco may be hand counting ballots (according to an article last week) in November. So, I have renewed curiosity about what HCPB advocates mean when they say "no computers."

We have a few thoughtful HCPB advocates on this list so I wonder if any of them want to respond to the query below.
  HCPB advocates have avoided criticism of HCPB by not giving the details of how this would really work. ME or NH style HCPB simply doesn't scale the way you want to assume. Suggestion: describe in detail how HCPB will be administered in Los Angeles. If you can describe it in detail in a way that is convincing, you win. You win because LA is the worst case in the US. If it could work there, it can work anywhere.

  Here are some questions to answer in the description of the hypothetical LA HCPB:

    a.. How will you prepare the 6,000 or so different ballots?
    b.. You have to have a database that links precincts with districts, contests, candidates, parties, scoring methods, etc. Will you do this manually (like on 3x5 cards) or with computers? If with computers, what software will you use?
    c.. You also need the database mentioned in the previous question in order to aggregate the votes from the precincts. Please describe the aggregation process, whether your database is manual or computerized.
    d.. Since, by law, you must have an accessible voting machine at each poll site, what will you use for this? Will this be computerized or not? Will you use the AutoMARK? How much will it cost to provide the equipment for disabled access?
    e.. People: How many people will be required? Will they be paid or not? Will these people get background checks? If volunteer, please describe in detail how you will recruit the tens of thousands of volunteers that will be needed. Please describe the personnel management system for these 10s of thousands of volunteers. Will the people managing the volunteers be paid or volunteer? What fall-out rate (people that say they will be there but don't show-- "my kid is sick" etc) do you expect for volunteers? For hired workers?
    f.. High-crime areas: How many high crime precincts are there in LA? Will you have difficulty getting hand-counters to staff pollsites late into the night? Will these HCPB workers come from the areas they are working?
    g.. Alternate scoring methods: SoS Bowen and LA ROV McCormack seem supportive of IRV. What if IRV is adopted in LA (already in SF)? How will this impact HCPB? Given that IRV cannot be meaningfully counted at the precinct level, how will you conduct the count for IRV contests? Should a move to HCPB rule out IRV or should it not be a factor in whether or not IRV is adopted?

Alan D.

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Received on Tue Jul 31 23:17:05 2007

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