observation on election as it relates to OVC

From: Charlie Strauss <cems_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Wed Nov 03 2004 - 10:51:32 CST

I'll begin with a humorous observation: Ted Selker reported that the
Diebold system one of his students tried to vote on crashed!

One of the more interesting annecdotes I heard was the there is some
belief that the elections in nevada went more smoothly because of the
paper trials. Apparently the real-time printout of the Sequoia
machines allowed people to see there whole ballot (like a full face
ballot) as they cast it. So there was less confusion and need for
checking and paging back to correct mistakes at the end. If true this
is a good argument for real time printing systems. One could
accomplish something similar in the OVC system: instead of a real time
printer have a second screen showing the current choices. Something to
consider. Ted Selker has advocated that voter accuity not paper trails
is the key to better elections: maybe we can have both.

To mean there were two other key stories relevant to the touch screen
voting story. One was the long lines. Lines are bad because they
discourage certain demographics more than others. People with limited
voting windows such as those with kids in daycare, those without cars,
those whose jobs limit them, the frail, and the impatient (first time
and young voters). It favors the rich, the self employed, the
unemployed, the retired, the fanatical, and the determined senior
voters. In my own county we presently use optical scan which has the
desirable attribute that one can dynamically expand the number of
voting carrels by providing more pens and tables (and election judges)
when heavy turnout is anticipated.

Thus the nevada story that paper trails accelerate throughtput and the
fact that a system based inherently on paper trails is more compatible
with auxilirary forms of paper trails (optical scan) I think are strong
if seldom heard arguments in favor of the OVC system.

Some of those long lines were caused by machine failures. in some
cases news account minimized the impact by saying it was outages only
lasted 90 minutes or a few hours. 90 minutes? (followed by long
lines) if I'm trying to vote before work that's an eternity and I wont
vote.

So again the OVC system wins on two accounts. First, the OVC system
uses off the shelf systems its possible to deploy more dynamically when
high turnout is expected (and give them to schools after the election).
  Second I believe it should be possible to better test OVC systems the
night before since they dont actually count anything themselves--the
ballots count not the machines.

The final story that caught my eye was the computer malfunction that
corrputed the memory cards containing 13,000 optical scan votes in the
daytona county florida election. The obvious good news of course was
that these were optical scan ballots and they could be rescanned. The
more sublte message that I have not seen mentioned yet was that, the
only reason anyone noticed the problem was that it was freaking
obvious. What if the corruption had been more subtle. say a
programming error that misalligned the readpoint for bush and not for
kerry. then subtle shifts would appear. Since re-scanning optical
scan ballots is generally not done (its illegal in many places) the
effect would probably not be detected.

thus mandatory spot checks of paper trails seem prudent.

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Received on Tue Nov 30 23:17:04 2004

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