Re: Voting with digital pen (Charlie Strauss)

From: Mark Zeman <mzeman_at_cerebralsoftware_dot_com>
Date: Wed May 23 2007 - 17:44:47 CDT

  I have concerns about the pen as well. I can't imagine a traditional paper
voting scenario with a bunch of little pens being handed out and returned to
docking stations. These will walk away en masse, with hackers, the curious,
and the gee-look-what-I-got crowd. We probably don't want these leaving the polls.
  I'm also getting a little confused with the Anoto technique and the way it
works. The document says "The voter marks his choice on a paper ballot ...". I
can't see the graphic well enough, but I'm guessing this is a Scantron-like,
fill in the ovals or circling event, since ordinary pencil lead is used. Now
the smarts of the pen come into play, sensing and recording the position
of the vote on the page.
  I have a couple of problems with this. Firstly, and I'm sorry I don't fully
understand the method, but any Scantronish or even choice circling technique
will make the ballot harder to review than a printed summary of who or what
was chosen. Secondly, Reviewing my own pencil marks, even if they make sense
very quickly, doesn't involve confirmation from the machine that's going to
actually tally my vote and send it to headquarters.
  I voted on some proprietary machine last fall here in Illinois, and at the
very least it printed a summary of my votes on fanfold paper, which displayed
in the window of a sealed (I hope) collection box. I was suspicious going in,
but that made me feel a bit better. The machine got everything right, at least
for my eyes.
  Did I also mention my concerns about the probability that the pens are
wireless? I searched the document for the word "wireless" and didn't find
anything, but the little radiation lines coming off the top of the pen in the
graphic would suggest it. That's another big security concern.
 I also just looked at the 3-docking station flowchart and it strikes me as
complex, especially on the subject of voter errors. Do I understand that a
voter mistake will result in a trip to the "scrutineer", destruction of the
paper ballot, clearing the pen and a complete recast of the vote? I think my
local voting machine last November could handle an error, and then print the
corrected summary.
  I don't want to sound like a complete nay-sayer here, but I re-read much of
the article and I don't see the answers to these questions. Contrasted with
individual touch-screen type machines with ballot printers, I don't see the
value of the pen at all.

Mark Zeman
Cerebral Software, Inc.

Open WebMail Project (
OVC-discuss mailing list
= The content of this message, with the exception of any external 
= quotations under fair use, are released to the Public Domain    
Received on Thu May 31 23:17:04 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu May 31 2007 - 23:17:05 CDT