[LINK] E-voting fears run high as election day looms

Craig Sanders cas at taz.net.au
Thu Oct 30 07:41:09 EST 2008

On Wed, Oct 29, 2008 at 09:09:19PM +1100, Antony Barry wrote:
> On 29/10/2008, at 5:50 PM, Stilgherrian wrote:
> > Apart from the cargo-cult "it's on a computer so it must be better"
> > lameness, what advantage is there AT ALL to electronic voting?
> The advantage is in the counting for systems more complex than first- 
> past-the-post BUT you don't need electronic voting to do it you just  
> need to capture the vote at some stage, either by keying from the  
> paper ballot or using OCR of some kind with visual human verification  
> of accuracy.

one way of doing that is to keep the manual count, but instead of
shuffling ballot papers between piles, you have the scrutineers enter
each ballot into a small terminal....with at least two or three people
verifying that each ballot has been correctly entered before submitting

and then you KEEP the ballot paper in case there needs to be a recount
or, better yet, pass it on to another group of people doing the old
manual count and compare the results of both methods. any significant
discrepancy indicating that a recount is required.

> But then I live in the ACT where we have multiple member electorates  
> with optional preferential voting above and below the line using the  
> Hare-Clark system with Robson rotation of candidates names to  
> eliminate the donkey vote (ballot papers are not identical). I'm  
> pretty sure that if you are not following a party line using paper  
> would be a faster way to vote.

faster, easier to get right, and much harder to get wrong. 

most voters are still confused and intimidated by the clock on their
VCR, 30+ years after the introduction of digital clocks and VCRs, let
alone a voting terminal.

anyone who's done any kind of computer support work KNOWS that the vast
majority of people aren't capable of understanding or correctly using
computer systems, even ones they are supposed to work with every day.
and they have absolutely no hope of learning a new complex system in 5
minutes while they are in the voting booth.

i.e. even if the technology were perfect, the end users aren't.

which is why i'm not in favour even of voting assistance terminals which
just use the screen for selection, not counting, and print out a paper
ballot which is then placed in a ballot box for manual counting.

even though it's not as dangerous and even though there are advantages
to this (e.g. a barcode could be printed along with the human readable
ballot, or it could be printed in an OCR font while still being
paper-based for auditing and manual recounting), it's still an
unnecessary complication and an unnecessary reliance on technology.


craig sanders <cas at taz.net.au>

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