[EM] Re: touch screen voting machines

Eron Lloyd elloyd at lancaster.lib.pa.us
Tue Nov 11 15:49:02 PST 2003

Hi Alex,

On Tuesday November 11 2003 6:19 pm, Alex Small wrote:
> Lost in all this discussion is the incredible ease of the ballots which
> you fill in with a pen.  They aren't easily degraded the way punch-cards
> are.  The "chads" can't fall out accidentally.  There's a paper backup
> kept in the custody of election officials for the purpose of recounts.
> The technology is used millions of times every year for standardized
> tests, including such high stakes tests as the SAT, ACT, AP tests, GRE,
> etc.  It's much harder to manipulate the result because there's a hard
> copy backup.

I agree there is quite an amount of value in this traditional method. What I 
was proposing was to use an electronic interface to produce a marked paper 
ballot. This way, you have the multiple benefits of computer technology 
(error correction, language selection, accessibility support, etc.) and the 
confidence of a paper ballot result.

> I recall controversy over the chads, and over poorly designed layouts on
> pen and paper ballots, but I don't recall any intrinsic difficulties with
> filling in the ovals.  The only problem was that the ovals were laid out
> in a confusing manner in one county.  That's different from the chads,
> which some people found intrinsically difficult.

One of the biggest problems with *any* ballot is that often-times not much 
usability research goes into it's design (like the recent Florida ballot). 
One interesting offering a computer interface could provide is multiple ways 
of displaying and inputing information about the ballot, based on the 
preference of the user.

> Since tampering with the machine can be detected by a visual inspection of
> the pen and paper ballots, the only way to manipulate the outcome is by
> having dead people vote, having corrupt precinct workers wink at "stuffing
> of the ballot box", etc.  And these problems ultimately come down to human
> honesty, a factor that no technology can remedy.  Even if we used better
> database software to remove dead people from voter rosters and put
> surveillance cameras at the polls to monitor possibly corrupt poll
> workers, a human has to examine the video recording of the polls and a
> human has to supply the data for the roster.

Indeed there are many problems...I suppose what it boils down to is attempting 
to reduce to ratio of correct to corrupt votes, so it can't swing an 
election. And all of us volunteering at the polls as observers.

> So my vote is for pen-and-paper ballots like on the SAT.  I just hope this
> vote is counted ;)

Is the SAT still administered on paper? I though most are moving to 
computer-based, with paper as an option. I know the GREs are.

> Alex
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Eron Lloyd
Technology Coordinator
Lancaster County Library
elloyd at lancaster.lib.pa.us
Phone: 717-239-2116
Fax: 717-394-3083

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