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

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Wed Mar 18 11:33:53 PDT 2009

Raph Frank > Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 5:54 PM
> > 2009/3/18 James Gilmour <jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk>:
> > I'm afraid you have misunderstood (or maybe I didn't explain it 
> > clearly).  It is not a software issue  -  it is a compliance issue. No 
> > matter what software you use to "read" the images, the Returning 
> > Officers will always have to decide the level of compliance for 
> > automatic acceptance.
> By compliance, do you mean the confidence level that the 
> software outputs?

I do not know how the DRS software works, so I cannot answer the question as asked.  But as I understand, some form of "intelligent"
OCR is used to "read" the image to produce the vote vector for each ballot paper.  The system can be set to accept or reject various
forms of the "same" vote mark.  This is, for example, an unbelievably large number of ways of marking a "1" in a square in the
voting column!!  What angle away from vertical is acceptable?  What degree of curl in the pencil stroke is acceptable?  Does it have
an up-stroke so that it might confused with a "7"? etc, etc, etc.  You have to see the images (hundreds of them) to appreciate the
variation in what is actually done by voters.  For the 2007 elections, an image was queued for evaluation if even the tiniest part
of a vote mark ("X" or a number, depending on the election)  went over the border into the next box.  Also queued for evaluation
were all ballot papers that had ANY additional marks at all anywhere on the face of the paper.

As I understand it, there are settable parameters in the system that could be set to accept or reject all of the variations
described above, and many more.  The compliance requirements were set high because when I and many others looked at the symbol
images queued for evaluation, we said it was obvious which most of them were.  But they had been queued because, in some way, they
did not comply with the parameters set and agreed by the Returning Officers.

> Multiple independent images, processed by different people 
> help with this issue.  You would only need to check ballots 
> where there is disagreement.

I am not sure what you meant here, but if there was any disagreement about the "symbol correction" at the evaluation stage, the
image was queued for adjudication by a Returning Officer.  There were comparatively few queued for that reason.  But there were very
large numbers queued for adjudication for other reasons, so that the candidates and their agents would be happy with the decisions.

The system used in 2007 was non-heuristic, but there was a heuristic version available that would "learn" from the "symbol
corrections" at the evaluation stage and so progressively queue fewer and fewer images for evaluation.  But that would have been a
"black box" step too far, at least on that occasion which was the first time any of the countries in the UK had used electronic
counting for ALL its elections.


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