Re: TAR--audits. urgently need help to get law.

From: Jerry Lobdill <lobdillj_at_charter_dot_net>
Date: Thu Nov 23 2006 - 07:45:49 CST

I have already posted that this effort is very disappointing to me,
but the continuing discourse on this fiasco begs additional comment.

Charlie Strauss wrote:

>The reason why the law prescibes an election commission for how to
>expand the recount if the error rate is too large is that the ways
>things can go south is myriad. Take for example the case above of
>the last election where we had a 0.5% shift for congresswoman. That
>came down to less than one vote per precint. If you did the intial
>random audit and you found not some glaring 30% error but instead
>you noticed that the hand count and the machine totals were off by
>just one vote on all the machines you looked at what do you
>do. Well if that's all I told you then you'd have to assume that
>was the intrinsict error rate for hand marked optical scan defects
>(e.g. poorly filled ovals) and say it was all cool and the
>likelihood a full recount would change the election would be near
>zero. But if I told you that 100% of those extra votes went for one
>candidate and never the other you'd say that you had very good
>evidence of an error that could change an election.
>
>I actually strongly dislike the idea of an election commission since
>it will have obvious problems. But I don't have a better solution
>yet. You can't enshrine every failure mode in law because you can't
>anticipate them. Perhaps we can spell out a few. But I'd prefer I
>think to create the commision then fix later it if it turns out not
>to work than over specify it and never get the law past to begin
>with. The compromise is that the commission has a very simple
>unambiguous charge to keep expanding the random recount until the
>likelihood of a full recount overturning the election is less than 10%.

You have assured that things will go south by prescribing expanding
recounts and giving a small committee the authority to expand or
terminate audits and declare "Mission Accomplished". If you want to
know more details please download and
read http://www.myimagehosting.com/pic.php?u=778Ke5d2&i=45926 and
http://www.myimagehosting.com/pic.php?u=778Ke5d2&i=44818. It's clear
that you haven't read these papers.

Your discussion of possible outcomes, viz,

"If you did the intial random audit and you found not some glaring
30% error but instead you noticed that the hand count and the machine
totals were off by just one vote on all the machines you looked at
what do you do. Well if that's all I told you then you'd have to
assume that was the intrinsict error rate for hand marked optical
scan defects (e.g. poorly filled ovals) and say it was all cool and
the likelihood a full recount would change the election would be near
zero. But if I told you that 100% of those extra votes went for one
candidate and never the other you'd say that you had very good
evidence of an error that could change an election."
suggests that you have not read very much of the available literature
and have embarked on this project with a copy of Brennan (which was
excellent in cataloging the modes of possible wholesale attack but
purposefully short on audit design) and have relied mostly on
(re)inventing the wheel without benefit of all the hundreds of hours
of thought that those of us who have been working the audit design
problem have invested and reported on.

The above scenario assumes a wholesale attack that deliberately pads
the announced winner's tally by one vote per precinct. That is a
totally absurd unrealistic scenario, as you will see if you read my
papers or study Brennan.

I must also agree with Kathy that you have not properly considered
the issue of election districts for the various candidates. The
population of precincts from which you must draw a sample is
different for each US Rep. district, for county offices, etc. You
can't just pick the race on the ballot that has the smallest margin
to determine sample size and then draw from the total population of
precincts in the state to do an audit for all races (if that is what
you've prescribed--and that is not really clear from your bill and
from your explanations).

It is also troubling that, given the evidence that you haven't really
studied the available literature, you put such faith in your own
personal likes and prejudices in designing this bill, plus the faith
you express in the infallibility of a nuclear scientist who,
apparently, hasn't read the literature either and just uses his math
background to derive his own algorithms--which you seem to know
little about. (hubris)

>As a final escape valve our current law allows a candidate to pay
>for as much of a recount as they want. So if they don't find the
>commissions audit satisfying and they think 10% is still a good
>chance then they can pay for a better audit (and get reimbursed if
>the eleciton outcome changes).

Do you think this protects our democracy, instills confidence in the
process, and assures that our election process is as accurate as is
feasible? I don't. It makes money king.

>Ultimately as long as one can sufficiently deter fraud by making it
>unlikely to go undetected then residual errors that might sneak
>through at the 90% detection threshold that affect absurdly tight
>margin races don't, personally, bother me much.

That's nice, but we have many more citizens to consider than yourself.

>Elections cant measure the will of the electorate that preciseley,
>so an effective tie just means either candidate is just as good a
>representative. I note that a 90% detection threshold does not mean
>errors sneak through 10% of the time. First that assumes there are
>any errors at all. Second it assumes the errors are maximally
>concntrated and systematically all in one direction. Since none of
>those is likely in practice, the number of errors that will actually
>sneak through at the 90% confidence level in miniscule.

How precisely can elections measure the will of the people?
(handwaving). And the rest of this paragraph is handwaving too.

I remain very disappointed in this bill.

Jerry

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Received on Thu Nov 30 23:17:11 2006

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