Re: What the voting experts think of barcodes

From: Ken Restivo <ken_at_restivo_dot_org>
Date: Wed Jun 02 2004 - 20:43:28 CDT

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Well, I'm new, but I'm going to weigh in on this one.

In a past life, I spent 10 years in marketing technology products. It was ugly "work", but it paid well. I got good at it. And I learned a lot of unsettling things about human nature that sometimes I wish I hadn't.

First of all, as much as this sucks, most people make decisions based on emotional considerations, not logic. This seems just as true of politics and governments as it is of my experience with consumers: all organisations and groups are, after all, made of people.

I found this "emotions over logic" phenomenon to be very repeatable, observable, and predictable in the realm of non-technical people forming impressions about technology. A corrollary to this is the political axiom: "if you are explaining, you are losing". If you have to explain that barcodes really are not anything sinister, blah blah blah, even though of course it should be intuitively obvious to anyone with more than two fingers of forehead that barcodes are no big deal, you will have lost. I don't want that to happen.

Also, in promoting adoption of Open Voting, you are fighting very marketing-savvy and cash-rich private corporations. As soon as Open Voting becomes a threat to their bottom line, I can see where the attacks will come from, and I'd really, really not like to throw them this raw meat.

Based on my experience, I predict that proprietary voting-machine corporations will invest $$$ in focus groups of average citizens, government officials, or whomever they think is a potential "influencer" over purchasing decisions. They will pick a group that is representative of the general level of cluelessness "out in the marketplace". The report from the Harvard meeting sems to me like strong evidence that such focus groups will "unanimously" puke all over the barcodes, and Diebold's marketing department and lobbying groups will jump all over it like rabid dogs. It could provide a tool for sowing "fear, uncertainty, and doubt". If that happens, Diebold, etc's salespeople and lobbyists are probably experienced enough to use this to take deals away from Open Voting and lock them in for proprietary voting systems. If they execute well, we won't know what hit us.

So, I agree with the technical arguments. It is silly for anyone to see anything wrong with barcodes. And yet ("Oppure si muove!") if a large majority of them do, then I advise Open Voting to accept that, and switch to OCR enthusiastically and with all speed. The vote you save may be your own.

OK, I'm going back into my cage now. Thanks for listening.

- -ken
- ------
On Wed, Jun 02, 2004 at 05:37:29PM -0700, Arthur Keller wrote:
> At 3:05 PM -0400 6/2/04, David Mertz wrote:
> >Btw. I think the above helps explain why I myself have been somewhat
> >reluctant to move from 1-D to 2-D barcodes. Someone like Karl
> >Auerbach or Arthur Keller love the idea of having plenty of
> >breathing room for extra information: more contests, cryptographic
> >codes, etc. Karl helped design the internet, which is now suffering
> >a squeeze on available IP addresses. But I *LIKE* the idea of a
> >barcode that simply doesn't have the ROOM to encode anything
> >extraneous. Sure, I don't think Karl is going to insert a list of
> >all my friends, enemies, shopping habits, and past votes into the
> >expansive data space of a 2-D barcode. But if he wanted to, there's
> >plenty of data available for mischievous purposes.
> How long is the barcode for the superlong ballot with the many
> contests. What happens if IRV or other ranked preference voting
> scheme is adopted? How about digital signature(s)? How will you
> encode write-in votes and report them on the BVA?
> Best regards,
> Arthur
> --
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA 94303-4507
> tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424

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Received on Wed Jun 30 23:17:03 2004

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