[EM] IRV proponents figure out how to make IRV precinct-summable

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Wed Mar 18 07:53:08 PDT 2009

Raph Frank > Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 12:56 PM
> Adb's ballot imaging idea takes this to the extreme.  With 
> pattern recognition software, you could support virtually any 
> voting method.
> The "counting" process would just produce a list of numbers 
> corresponding to each ballot.
> In its most simple form, you would just need a pattern 
> recognition program that can recognise the numbers 0 to 9 and 
> maybe also the letter X (for "place an X next to your 
> favourite candidate").
> As long as the ballots are designed to make this easy, it 
> shouldn't be that difficult a task.  There would be a box 
> provided for each number that the voter fills in.
> I wrote some software that is a basic attempt at this.  
> However, it only gives 70% ish accuracy.
> See:
> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RangeVoting/files/Ballot%20image/
> The circles are used to align the image and the black 
> rectangle at the top is used to work out where the top of the 
> ballot is.
> I think if there was demand, it should be possible to make 
> this software much more accurate, since it doesn't have to 
> worry about most of the complexities of handwriting 
> recognition.  It wouldn't have to separate out letters as 
> each 'box' would only contain one number and there are only 
> 10 possibilities.  Also, since each box would be in a known 
> position on the page, it would be able to figure out where 
> each letter is located.

I'm afraid there is a little more involved that your description would suggest because real voters do things you might never expect.
But it has all already been done for public elections.  Just one example of which I have some knowledge.  In May 2007 in Scotland
two different elections were held on the same day.  In the MMP elections (Scottish Parliament) the two votes were recorded by "X"s
in separate columns on a combined ballot sheet.  In the STV-PR elections (local government - 32 councils) the preferential votes
were recorded by "1, 2, 3" etc in one column, for as many or as few candidates as each voter wished.

The paper ballots from both elections were scanned to produce numerical vote files of the kind you suggest.  But the compliance
levels for character recognition were set very high, so many images were queued for evaluation under scrutiny.  Those that were
disputed or still uncertain were then queued for adjudication by a Returning Officer, again under full scrutiny.  Only then were the
completed numerical files passed to the relevant counting program.

James Gilmour

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