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Possible use of Python for a voting machine demo project -- your feedback requested

 
 
Ulrich Petri
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      07-21-2003
"Paul Rubin" <http://(E-Mail Removed)> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
news:(E-Mail Removed)...
> "Ulrich Petri" <(E-Mail Removed)> writes:
> > Here in germany we also have elections where more than one thing is

voted
> > upon but if that is the case we have a seperate ballot for each of those
> > descisions and they all go into different "boxes" and are counted by
> > different people.

>
> What is a typical number of such boxes?
>
> In a US election, the number of "boxes" that would be needed is
> usually more than 20 and can be as many as 50. Not just politicians
> but also judges, sheriffs, and ballot questions like whether to build
> a new school in a given location, all get voted on.
>
> Do you really want to fill out 50 separate pieces of paper in a voting
> booth, and then make sure to deposit each one in its own correct
> separate box?


wow i wasn't aware that it is that much...
Here the ballots are usually printed on colored paper so you can tell which
box is for what by the color. The *maximum* of different things voted on in
a single election is about 5 here...

So finally i see your problem....

Ciao Ulrich


 
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Paul Rubin
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      07-21-2003
"Alan Dechert" <(E-Mail Removed)> writes:
> Right. This receipt problem is way overblown. If we really thought this
> was a big problem, absentee voting would be illegal. There are problems
> with absentee voting but then look at Oregon -- they have gone to
> vote-by-mail entirely.


In fact absentee ballots are just about the favorite mechanism of
ballot fraud. Absentee voting should be greatly curtailed if not
banned outright. Instead, voters away from home should be allowed to
cast their ballots at any official polling place they happen to be
near, not just at the one in their home district.

I have doubts about Oregon but its problems don't see nearly as bad as
places like Florida (try Googling for "Xavier Suarez" and "fraud").
If they did mail-in voting in Florida, they would never get a reliable
election result again.

As for the receipt problem being overblown, IIRC, Benaloh's original
paper described its motivation, citing examples of the Mafia telling
people how to vote in Italian elections and demanding to see receipts.
There would be similar problems in the US military from what I've heard.
 
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Alan Dechert
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      07-21-2003
"Paul Rubin" <http://(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed)...
> "Ulrich Petri" <(E-Mail Removed)> writes:
> > "Alan Dechert" <(E-Mail Removed)> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
> > news9DSa.111436$(E-Mail Removed) rthlink.net...
> >
> > Sorry but why on earth you dont just print that on paper and let people

make
> > their crosses where they want?

>
> In the past there has been a lot of trouble with manual ballot
> systems, because people can't understand the instructions, the ballots
> get printed incorrectly, stuff like that. You might remember the big
> mess in the 2000 US presidential election, that revolved around such
> problems. Choosing the US President turned out to mostly be a battle
> between lawyers over which ballots to count rather than about what the
> voters wanted, and a lot of the legal decisions were made according to
> the political leanings of the particular judges. The ballots
> themselves didn't get a thorough tabulation until long after the
> January inauguration and people disagree about how to intepret the
> results even to this day.
>
> US elections are also different than elections in most other countries
> because a lot of different issues get voted in them. Rather than just
> choosing one of a bunch of different parties like in a parliamentary
> system, we vote separately for (potentially) the President, Senator,
> Congressional representative, Governor of the state, Lieutenant
> governor, Attorney General, Mayor of the town, members of the local
> school board, ballot initatives on whether to collect an extra tax on
> soda bottles, on whether to build a new highway somewhere, and so on
> and so on. Dozens of different things, all in one election. Counting
> ballots by hand would require reading off from each ballot all the
> separate votes on each of these issues. It's not like in France or
> Canada (I have no idea about Germany) where there's basically just one
> question to vote on.
>

You make a lot of good points. As I understand it, Canada administers
national, province, and local elections separately. They happen at
different times and are conducted by different entities. The U.S. is one of
very few where you see federal, state, and local contests on the same
ballot.

Alan Dechert


 
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Ian Bicking
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      07-21-2003
On Sun, 2003-07-20 at 18:53, Alan Dechert wrote:
> "Andrew Dalke" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
> news:bff56e$8iv$(E-Mail Removed)...
> > Alan Dechert:
> > > will change. For example, when the voter selects a president/vice

> > president
> > > pair, the background will change; the non-selected pairs will be greyed
> > > while the selected pair will be highlighted (very brightly -- should

> light
> >
> > "greyed" in normal UI parlance means the option is no longer selected.
> > What happens if someone pressed the wrong button? How is the correct
> > selection made?
> >

> Point (or click on) again to de-select. This is one thing that may require
> a little voter training. I think it's easy enough, but then we'll find out.
> You could add a "reset" button but that would make an already busy screen
> even busier. I'm not sure if that would be easier.


I think it would make more sense not to change the display of the
unselected candidates, but only to highlight the selected candidate.

The more you reduce the amount of color used elsewhere in the display,
the more color in a selection will stand out. At least for people who
aren't completely color-blind -- but those people will just have to pay
slightly more attention. I think font changes might confuse people.
Thickening the border of the selected candidate would not.

If you have a dense ballot like you are proposing I would expect even an
experienced user would be likely to make one mistake somewhere, so it
should be clear how to fix it.

> > > 3) When "WRITE-IN CANDIDATE" is selected, a large widow (maybe the full
> > > screen) will pop up with a QWERTY keyboard in the upper half. This

> > keyboard
> > > will have only three rows with the alpha keys (no punctuation or numbers
> > > needed except for perhaps the hyphen... no shift, all CAPS).

> >
> > No apostrophe? What if I want to vote for "O'Reilly"
> >

> As a matter of fact, we won't let you vote for O'Reilly. On second thought,
> you're right, I guess. Okay we'll have an apostrophe available. Anything
> else?


Also a hyphen, like for Mercuri-Neumann. I assume it would be
acceptable to simply leave off any accent marks, umlauts, tildes, etc.
from a candidate's name (at least in the US), even though strictly
speaking an "n~" (excuse my uninternationalized keyboard) isn't the same
letter as an "n"... but no one will be confused by that, which is more
important than correctness. However, whether Mercuri-Neumann becomes
MERCURINEUMANN or MERCURI NEUMANN would confuse and distress people
(even if those were likely to be counted as the same by the system).

Ian



 
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Paul Rubin
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      07-21-2003
"Alan Dechert" <(E-Mail Removed)> writes:
> You make a lot of good points. As I understand it, Canada administers
> national, province, and local elections separately. They happen at
> different times and are conducted by different entities. The U.S. is one of
> very few where you see federal, state, and local contests on the same
> ballot.


The US does not have federal contests. All elections for federal
office are actually state contests. That includes Presidential
elections, which are a bunch of state contests for slates of electors
from the individual states. That all the elections are state contests
and not federal ones is one of the reasons it's hard to impose uniform
national standards on how the elections are run.
 
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Alan Dechert
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      07-21-2003
"Paul Rubin" <http://(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed)...
> "Alan Dechert" <(E-Mail Removed)> writes:
> > Right. This receipt problem is way overblown. If we really thought

this
> > was a big problem, absentee voting would be illegal. There are problems
> > with absentee voting but then look at Oregon -- they have gone to
> > vote-by-mail entirely.

>
> In fact absentee ballots are just about the favorite mechanism of
> ballot fraud. ....
>

I think that is correct.

> Absentee voting should be greatly curtailed if not
> banned outright. Instead, voters away from home should be allowed to
> cast their ballots at any official polling place they happen to be
> near, not just at the one in their home district.
>

Our system, if implemented, would replace the current absentee system as
well as the current poll site system.

http://home.earthlink.net/~adechert/ucvs-proposal.rtf

The absentee system would work very much like the poll site system. The
voter would see exactly the same screens with either one. The printout
would look exactly the same. The ballot electronic record would wind up in
exactly the same format as poll site ballots. Here are some advantages
highlighted in the proposal:

Voter does not need to plan
Avoids mailing of absentee request as request is made and granted
on-the-spot
No need for the county to print and mail costly absentee ballot materials
Tabulation of absentee votes available on Election Day
Seamless integration with poll site system
Secret ballot and voter anonymity preserved
Greatly reduces potential for absentee vote fraud

> I have doubts about Oregon but its problems don't see nearly as bad as
> places like Florida (try Googling for "Xavier Suarez" and "fraud").
> If they did mail-in voting in Florida, they would never get a reliable
> election result again.
>
> As for the receipt problem being overblown, IIRC, Benaloh's original
> paper described its motivation, citing examples of the Mafia telling
> people how to vote in Italian elections and demanding to see receipts.
> There would be similar problems in the US military from what I've heard.
>

There are still important issues there. Generally, we've cracked down on
blatant coersion and vote buying. Still, some good sting operations are
probably in order.

The most persistent type of corruption has to do with campaigns that
overwork the absentee ballots -- helping voters make sure they vote.
Sometimes it's a fine line. A campaign worker might stop by an elderly
voter to make sure s/he has mailed in the absentee ballot, and the voter
asks for assistance -- or the campaign worker offers assistance. How much
assistance constitutes fraud where a voter is really not sure what to do? I
don't have any numbers but in 2000 a lot of older folks in Florida were
getting assistance with obtaining and sending in their absentee ballots.

Alan Dechert




 
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Ian Bicking
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      07-21-2003
On Sun, 2003-07-20 at 19:34, Alan Dechert wrote:
> > I really don't know why everyone wants to use touchscreens in voting
> > machines. I hate touch screens, they are a horrible input method.
> >

> A lot of people agree with you. Certainly, the Australians that designed
> their system would agree. They went for a keypad.
>
> http://www.softimp.com.au/evacs.html


I think the ATM model is considerably better than a keypad. In a keypad
you have to view the number, then change focus and enter in the number,
then confirm the number and the selection. Thinking particularly about
old people who aren't comfortable with computers, this sort of focus
shift is very difficult, though in the case of a keypad likely everyone
will have this focus shift and find the process more difficult as a
result. The ATM model (buttons on the side of the monitor) doesn't
require any shift in focus, because the input devide (the buttons) and
the select itself are visually linked.

> On the other hand, a lot of people really really like the touch screens. We
> can't make them all mouse driven since a percentage of the voters will have
> a big problem with that. But there is no reason to give up on mouse driven
> systems just because some people can't use them. Mice are very cheap and
> most people are used to them. So we just need to have enough non-Mice
> systems to accommodate those that need/want them. One nice thing about the
> touch screen with our system is that it will look and work exactly the same
> whether you use a mouse or touch screen.


Mice, unlike keypads, are comfortable for many people. But an older
person generally has to think very hard about the movement of the mouse
to match it with the screen (since they are often reasoning to
themselves about how to move, rather than having an intuitive body-sense
of the mouse).

Any technique that has different levels of accessibility seems like it
would meet criticism for that. People will have to decide which booth
to use, will have to be informed about the differences, and may find it
easier or harder than they thought once they choose. But maybe it's not
a big deal, I don't know.

I think the ATM-style buttons should be fairly cheap, though. You
already have to create an enclosure for the monitor, and in general
while you'll be using commodity PC parts you'll still have to set the
system up with a certain amount of care.

Speed should be excellent -- because of the tactile feedback and
reliability of the input, people could vote more confidently with less
error. I would expect 100% accuracy with respect to the actual input
(though inaccuracies in reading, or simple indecisiveness will still
cause errors). The one problem I would imagine would be the increased
difficulty of the interface for changing your vote, and that displaying
the current status of your vote would be exclusive with displaying the
choices for a particular race to choose among. But since ultimately
correctness is ensured by confirming the printed ballot, I'm less
concerned about editing if it means you can go through the process more
quickly. (You could make the vote a single keypress, but then display
at the top of the screen what your last selection was while still
presenting the choices for the next race... given enough room you could
even just split the screen in two and show all previous selections)

Potentially by using braille the keys could be blind-accessible, when
accompanied with some sort of audio. Since the system would already be
modal when using keys, it wouldn't have to be adapted significantly for
that situation -- you'd simply need to change a setting on one of the
computers to do audio output and attach headphones, and then you'd have
your accessible booth.

Anyway, I just like keyboards more than mice if you can't tell...

Ian



 
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Alan Dechert
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      07-21-2003
"Paul Rubin" <http://(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed)...
> "Alan Dechert" <(E-Mail Removed)> writes:
> > You make a lot of good points. As I understand it, Canada administers
> > national, province, and local elections separately. They happen at
> > different times and are conducted by different entities. The U.S. is

one of
> > very few where you see federal, state, and local contests on the same
> > ballot.

>
> The US does not have federal contests. All elections for federal
> office are actually state contests. That includes Presidential
> elections, which are a bunch of state contests for slates of electors
> from the individual states. That all the elections are state contests
> and not federal ones is one of the reasons it's hard to impose uniform
> national standards on how the elections are run.
>

I think you have a point but there is a symantics problem.

It's true that the U.S. Constitution gives most (almost all) of the
authority for conducting elections to the states. You're correct to say
that this makes the establishment of "uniform national standards" highly
problematic. Nonetheless, we plan to address this. This is a *very*
involved subject. Have a look at our proposed Election Rules Database

http://home.earthlink.net/~adechert/ucvs-proposal.rtf

Some other details can be found here:

http://home.earthlink.net/~adechert/...tudydialog.txt

Then there's the concept of "Regulatory Capture." We intend to drive the
discussion of how to resolve contradictions in the current voting system.

However, to say that "The US does not have federal contests" leaves me
nonplussed. Federal elections involve the election of federal officials --
e.g., Congress, President, Vice President. We have the Federal Election
Commission, which looks like it's being replaced by a host of commissions.
You'll find the phrase "federal election" quite a few times on this page:

http://www.fec.gov/hava/eac.htm

--Alan Dechert


 
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Ben Finney
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      07-21-2003
On Mon, 21 Jul 2003 00:54:34 +0200, Ulrich Petri wrote:
><snip voting with computers>
> Sorry but why on earth you dont just print that on paper and let
> people make their crosses where they want?


To give benefits that paper ballots can't provide. E.g. allowing people
to vote over the Internet who can't get to voting booths, removing the
human element of transposing ballots to a database, possibly reducing
double-voting, etc.

The FREE project was developing GNU.FREE software for electronic voting;
development has since halted, but they have a lot of articles resulting
from the development activity:

<http://www.free-project.org/writings/>

--
\ "People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of |
`\ thought which they avoid." -- Soren Aabye Kierkegaard |
_o__) (1813-1855) |
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Alan Dechert
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      07-21-2003
"Ben Finney" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed)...
> On Mon, 21 Jul 2003 00:54:34 +0200, Ulrich Petri wrote:
> ><snip voting with computers>
> > Sorry but why on earth you dont just print that on paper and let
> > people make their crosses where they want?

>
> To give benefits that paper ballots can't provide. E.g. allowing people
> to vote over the Internet who can't get to voting booths, removing the
> human element of transposing ballots to a database, possibly reducing
> double-voting, etc.
>

Several studies concluded that remote unattended Internet voting poses some
very thorny problems (especially voter identity). However, these studies
have also said there is no reason attended Internet voting could not work.
Our project incorporates a proposal for Remote Attended Internet Voting to
replace the various existing absentee voting methods employed today.

> The FREE project was developing GNU.FREE software for electronic voting;
> development has since halted, but they have a lot of articles resulting
> from the development activity:
>

Kitkat, underestimated the size of the problem on the technical side. He
never started to look at the politcal one which is much larger. It is
axiomatic that everyone that jumps in to solve the problem underestimates
it.

The team I am putting together is getting a handle on the technical side as
well as the political side. We have a ways to go yet.

Alan Dechert




 
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