When A Pencil And Paper Makes Sense

Ed Gerck egerck at nma.com
Sun Nov 7 13:51:39 EST 2004

Here are some things that can --and do-- go wrong with the scanned ballots:

- blank votes (where the voter could have made a mark but did not) can
be "voted" at will after the ballot is cast by the voter, and no one can
detect the fraud.

- by looking at the vote pattern, a "voter contract" to vote for a certain
candidate can be verified by a third-person (not necessarily a poll official,
could be a party observer) and the voter can be rewarded or punished (if the
pattern does not show up).

- in a two-candidate race, voters circle a candidate and write "not this one".
Should it not count, even though voter intent is clear?

- voters pause the pencil on an option, and decide not to mark it; notheless,
the optical reader reads it as a vote. Was the voter intent respected?

- the cost of just storing these paper ballots, also after the election runs,
is several millions of dollars for San Francisco for example.

- the cost of printing and the special paper, makes this sytem have a high
recurring cost, election after election, in addition to the mounting storage
cost for past elections.

The solution to secure voting is not the current generation of "trust me"
electronic voting machines either, with or without an added paper ballot that
the voter can verify. The solution begins, as I see it, to recognize the hard
information theory problem behind what seems to be a simple process. This
analysis, and solution, is outlined in

Ed Gerck

R.A. Hettinga wrote:

> <http://www.forbes.com/2004/11/05/cx_ah_1105tentech_print.html>
> Forbes
> Ten O'Clock Tech
> When A Pencil And Paper Makes Sense
> Arik Hesseldahl,   11.05.04, 10:00 AM ET
> Thank goodness, it's over. Sometime around 4:30 A.M. Wednesday I went to
> bed, not the least bit uncertain that George W. Bush had been re-elected.
>  But the one thing during this election cycle about which I have been
> uncertain is electronic voting. Florida in 2000 was a mess, and in
> reaction, some states and counties have turned to newfangled electronic
> voting machines, thinking that computer technology is the answer to a
> voting system that has started to creak under pressure.
>  It seems that despite much worry about a repeat of Florida in other
> states, voting has gone pretty smoothly. Electronic voting methods are
> getting high marks. Of the 27,500 voting problems reported to the Verified
> Voting Project, a San Francisco-based group that monitored the election for
> voting problems, less than 6% of the issues reported stemmed from
> electronic voting machines.
>  Election officials in states like Nevada, Georgia and Hawaii gave
> electronic voting systems a try. There were some problems: a memory card on
> an electronic voting machine in Florida failed; five machines in Reno,
> Nev., malfunctioned, causing lines to back up.
>  Overall voter turnout was high. The Committee for the Study of the
> American Electorate, a nonprofit, nonpartisan outfit based in Washington,
> D.C., estimated that 120.2 million people, or 59.6% of those eligible to
> vote, cast ballots in this election, which would be an improvement of 5%
> and 15 million people, compared with the 2000 elections, and would make
> 2004's turnout the highest since 1968.
>  Still, that's not as high as voter participation in my home state of
> Oregon, where 1.7 million people, or nearly 82% of those eligible, voted.
>  In Oregon, voters cast their votes from home rather than going to a
> polling place. They submit their ballots by mail. The state abolished
> polling places in 1998 and has been voting entirely by mail ever since.
>  Voters get their ballots roughly two weeks before election day. This year
> some were delayed because of an unexpectedly high number of voter
> registrations. Ballots must be received by county elections offices by 8
> P.M. on the day of the election. Drop boxes are located throughout the
> state, as well.
>  Voting should indeed take time and effort. It's undoubtedly important. But
> I like Oregon's common-sense approach. Voting from the comfort of your own
> home eliminates the inherent disincentive that comes from having to stand
> on a long line, for example.
>  It's pretty simple. Oregon voters fill out their ballots using a pencil,
> just like those standardized tests everyone took in high school. If they
> want to write in a candidate, the ballot allows for that, too.
>  I thought of this as I stood for about 45 minutes in a long, cold line at
> 6:30 A.M. to vote in my neighborhood in New York's Upper East Side.
> Throughout the day I heard reports from around the country of people who
> had to stand in line for as long as eight hours so they could vote, and I
> wondered how many others just threw up their hands in frustration because
> they had someplace else to be.
>  The mail-in ballot also gives the voter a little time to consider his or
> her choice. Too often, voters will enter a voting booth knowing a few of
> the people they intend to vote for, but read about some ballot initiative
> or amendment for the first time. Rather than having to make a snap decision
> in the voting booth, having a ballot handy at home can give voters time to
> educate themselves and make a more informed decision.
>  Sometimes, the best solution isn't a computer at all, but a good
> old-fashioned pencil and paper.
>  Click here for more Ten O'Clock Tech Columns

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