Alternatives to a single bar code

From: Steve Chessin <steve_dot_chessin_at_sun_dot_com>
Date: Wed May 05 2004 - 04:14:16 CDT

I must admit I haven't been able to follow all of the discussion as to
how big the bar code must be. But I wonder if the following
alternatives to a single bar code have been considered [note: I didn't
find this addressed in the FAQ at
and I couldn't easily find a link to the email archive there either]:

A. Instead of a single bar code, a bar code is printed next to each
human-readable choice on the printed ballot, encoding both the contest
and the choice. The voter takes the ballot from the voting station
printer and sticks it into the privacy folder. The voter then walks
over to the ballot reader booth, closes the curtain behind them (the
ballot reader is in a privacy booth, is it not?), removes the ballot
from the folder, and places it on a scanner that scans the whole thing
for them and reads back their choices. (A keypad would let them
control the advancement to the next contest.) Then they put it back in
the folder and drop it in the ballot box, or have it spoiled so they
can vote again.

It's also probably easier to place a piece of paper face-down on a
scanner bed, especially if it has paper guides on two orthogonal sides,
than it is to properly use a hand-held bar code scanner. If the voter
places it wrong-side down, so that the scanner "sees" a blank sheet,
the reader can easily tell the voter to "please turn the paper over and
try again".

(Cannon makes a $50 flat-bed scanner. At HP they start at $80.)

B. Like (A), except that each bar code is a phonetic encoding of the
respective choice, so that the ballot reader doesn't have to know
anything about the ballot itself, and need not be reconfigured for
every election.

(There are about 40 phonemes, and most names are less than 10
syllables, so that's less than 60 bits per bar code.)

Since the bar code is phonetic, to make the ballot machine-countable,
the human-readable portion is printed in a standard OCR font that is
easily machine-readable. So the tally machine has to be configured for
the election, but then it would have to be configured for the election

C. Like (B), except that two phonetic bar codes are printed; one in English,
and one in the language selected by the voter, in case it isn't English.
The bar codes identify themselves as English or non-English, and the ballot
reader has a switch on it to let the voter select which bar code they want
to hear.

The nice thing about multiple bar codes is that they scale. The more
contests, the more bar codes. Multi-page ballots are easily dealt with,
since the information for each page is self-contained.

What's wrong with this approach?

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Received on Mon May 31 23:17:14 2004

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