Re: Fwd: Hand count elections

From: Doug Kellner <dkellner_at_elections_dot_state_dot_ny_dot_us>
Date: Mon Nov 12 2007 - 14:15:53 CST

I am not sure why everyone is spending so much effort discussing how to
count paper ballots. It is simply a matter of organization and logistics
that many boards of elections have been dealing with for years.

New York City used preference voting for its school board elections for many
years. Ballots were counted and sorted by hand, although we eventually
designed a system for entering the results into a computer system to have
the computer sort the ballots. After that experience, we determined that it
was more efficient to hand-sort the preference ballots. Nevertheless,
hand-counting hundreds of thousands of paper ballots, even with the
relatively complex preference system was hardly an insurmountable problem.
(NYC school board ballots were counted at central sites, not at the election
district on the night of the election. We generally started counting three
days after the election and it took anywhere from two to eight days to
finish the count, depending on the efficiency of the personnel.)

We should not forget that New York City still conducted primary elections on
paper ballots untiil 1957. Again, the logistics of hand-counting the
ballots on election night in each election district was not insurmountable,
although the Legislature did eventually determine that it was more efficient
to use lever voting machines and to reduce the potential for fraud that
existed with hand-counting.

For the record, the maximum size of a New York election district is 1150
registered voters.

From: Arthur Keller <voting@kellers.org>
Reply-To: Open Voting Consortium discussion list
<ovc-discuss@listman.sonic.net>
Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2007 11:31:23 -0700
To: <dak@khgflaw.com>, Open Voting Consortium discussion list
<ovc-discuss@listman.sonic.net>
Subject: Re: [OVC-discuss] Fwd: Hand count elections

At 11:48 AM -0500 11/12/07, Nancy Tobi wrote:
> It is a common misconception that population is a show stopper for hand count
> elections. It is not the size of the town, or the population of the city. It
> is the number of registered voters in any given precinct that matters. In NY
> they limit- by law - the number of voters in a precinct to something like
> 1,300. My understanding is that this is the case in many states: they limit
> the number of voters in precincts so they are dealing with a manageable
> population for vote counting.
> 1300 is less than a third (and even a fourth) of the number of registered
> voters in NH's largest hand count polling places, yet NH counts those ballots
> by hand on election night, and gets it done right because we are using
> methodologies that are efficient and well managed.

I'm convinced that hand-counting can be done in precincts of reasonable
size. My issue is how to transparently, safely, securely, and accurately
aggregate the totals from each of those precincts into overall totals.
Particularly if there are multiple thousands of precincts.

The issue of how to do that with IRV is a harder problem. IRV does not have
the mathematical associative property of aggregation. Adding up the totals
of votes by precincts does not work for IRV. If there are multiple rounds,
then you either need to count IRV centrally, or you need to do synchronized
counting in a distributed fashion over an extended period of time. The
extended period of time eliminates precinct counting as an option, but it
does allow for counts by county. I can imagine doing a distributed
synchronized count by the 62 California counties. I can't imagine doing a
distributed synchronized count for 1000 precincts.

When you have hand-counting over multiple rounds with IRV, you lose a
significant degree of transparency that precinct-based hand counting
provides.

Best regards,
Arthur

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Received on Fri Nov 30 23:17:19 2007

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