Can we talk details about adding Humboldt-style scanning to the OVC project?

From: Jim March <1_dot_jim_dot_march_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Mon May 25 2009 - 02:32:31 CDT


As I understand the current OVC system model, the plan is to do a
precinct-level tally by scanning the ballots at the precinct as an
end-of-day procedure. This would match up with California law
requiring such a tally be posted.

The plan at present is to do the scanning via the barcode printed on
the ballots and a barcode scanner.

What I want to discuss is doing the end-of-day scan as graphic images
stored on optical media. In other words, "Humboldt-style".

At the precinct, we'd be talking about a small extra expenditure in
hardware. The precinct-central scanning station would need a basic
scanner worth about $200, with auto-feed, and a second optical drive
in that computer. The first drive could (and I would argue, should)
be a read-only basic CD drive, while the second would be a full
"writer" (likely DVD). This can burn multiple copies of the data for
bystanders, with at least two cut for the county election HQ.

The second drive would be about $40 tops, less in bulk.

Against these hardware costs, we actually get some advantages as far
as end-of-day procedures. The scanner will have a "hopper" of at
least 30+ sheets, and auto-feed. So the pollworkers end up doing less
work on scanning as opposed to hand-scanning each sheet.

This would of course also apply to central tabulation, with a bigger
scanner of course. Likely two or more to increase throughput and
cover some redundancy failure. The advantage here is that with bigger
hoppers of up to 500 sheets, handling of the mail-in vote becomes far
more efficient than hand-waving bar code scanners.

The Humboldt project itself used Fujitsu scanners worth about $18k.
They had small dot matrix printers on board that could implant a code
sequence on some unused area of paper just prior to scanning, so you
could link a given graphic scan to a given sheet of paper later if

That won't be practical in precinct scanning I don't think, not unless
we issue pollworkers some kind of hand-inker stamp thingie that
increments one number on each "kachunka". That would add an extra
step and I don't think it's critical.

The other option as opposed to precinct graphic scanning is to haul
the precinct ballots back to election HQ and run them through the same
scanners that handled the mail-in vote. The advantage is that they'd
get the same "sequence number stamp". The problem is that you then
have to watch your paper transfers like a hawk.

I prefer precinct scanning. I know for a FACT we're not going to get
enough activists to watch every precinct paper transfer.

All of this is about "worst case scenarios", when the elections
managers are basically crooks. Which does happen.

I know Alan thinks this is overkill. I've done too much election
observation where the officials are malevolently evil to agree, and I
hope to begin a rational conversation on this.


Jim March
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Received on Sun May 31 23:17:03 2009

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