Electronic voting

In this US Presidential election year, voting and voting mechanisms will come under great scrutiny. Electronic voting is all the rage; however, computer professionals (of which I am one) often mistrust the safety, security, and accuracy of the electronic voting process. This article in the New York Times magazine is must-reading for people who are going to be voting this year.

I just posted my primary ballot for California this morning (I voted for Hilary) and it is to be counted by optical scanning. No touch screens for me.

8 Responses to “Electronic voting”

  1. jwg says:

    Good article. One problem with the scanning machine system is that if people mark their ballots sloppily their vote may be miscounted. In a Cambridge school committee election several years ago that was very close there was a manual recount. The results were the same with slightly different numbers. I watched some of the recount and there were some interesting ballot markings. In a couple of cases people had drawn a circle around the oval so that the scanner (these scanners only have read heads in the “correct” places) didn’t see the vote. When manually recounted these ballots were interpreted by humans to match the voter intent. Better scanners that notice markings out side of the ovals would help since they could either reject the ballot of dump it in a bin for manual checking later.

  2. keith_london says:

    Good on you! I’m for Hillary for the time being. (In theory I like to think of myself as an “independent”).

  3. trawnapanda says:

    the problems for congressional-type systems, where you’re voting for more than one position at a time, are much more complex than parliamentary systems with single person elections and first-past-the-post counting, of course. Here in the Gt White North, as in the UK most of the time we’re putting one X against one name on a list of several on a paper ballot. (the names are white, on a black box, and the “vote here” space is a white circle. so circles around names prolly wouldn’t be seen, even by those who wield the pencil. Any mark in the circle works, as long as your choice is clear and unambiguous.

    the one time we do vote for more than one person at a time is the municipal elections (mayor, councillor, board of ed person…), and i really think we’ve got the best system going. The ballot is fairly large. It’s a list of names, with broken arrows pointing to each name. You fill in a block to complete the arrow that points at your chosen candidate. Once you’ve done so, you put the ballot back in a privacy folder, and take it to the poll clerk. Clerk checks for appropriate initials on (a visible part of) the ballot, then it’s fed into the machine, which reads it right there and then. If there’s an error (eg you voted for two people for mayor) it will reject the ballot, and you sort it out with the poll clerk. If the ballot is marked correctly, it reads it, tallies the votes, stores that on a chip, and the ballot drops into a ballot box, for paper trail and recount purposes.

    At the end of the balloting day, the balloting machine phones the vote-central computer at the returning office and reports (I’m sure there are code-number protocols in place). After that the result can be announced quickly. We knew about our municipal election results about 30min after polls closed. Works for me.

  4. chrishansenhome says:

    I would rather have the computer be very specific, and then let people look at the disputed ballots. The capacity for voters to be cussed is probably almost infinite, but the capacity of programmers, architects, and business analysts to anticipate how cussed people can be is very very finite.

    I do agree that the future is probably with manually marked and optically counted ballots.

  5. chrishansenhome says:

    If there’s an error (eg you voted for two people for mayor) it will reject the ballot, and you sort it out with the poll clerk

    I think that having two people share the office of Mayor might be a very good thing in many places.

  6. trawnapanda says:

    well, the mayor of toronto [in common with many large-city mayors in parliamentary democracies] has a much bigger electorate than ANY of the upper level MPs / MLAs. Our average parliamentary constituency has about 100 000 residents (not all of whom have the vote, of course); there are 2.7 million people in Toronto, all adult citizens can vote for mayor. Maybe you’re right.

  7. trawnapanda says:

    oh my, those posters are delightful.

    I particularly liked the Bismarck allusion.