The Conspirators
End Of May 2

Better Voting With Technology

Dan Grobstein supplied the following:

We seem to have a lot of non-mechanical voting machines in the US. Locally we used to have machines with a row of levers. You'd pull down your choice and when you open the curtain with the red handle, it would bring the levers back up and increment a counter in the back.

Today we have a listing built into a membrane keyboard. You push the embedded switch opposite your candidate's name. I little green led lights up and when you move the red handle to open the curtain it counts the vote in the machine.

Some jurisdictions have touch screen voting which prints out a receipt showing your vote.

I don't trust it.

When you go to the ATM you get a receipt for your transaction. Since it is your money, you should know what should be there and tomorrow you can check that your deposit or withdrawal was actually added or subtracted from your balance. When you get gas at the pump, you see your fuel gauge shows full and you have a receipt for an amount for what used to be a mortgage payment and the dollars and gallons should have a good relationship to what shows on your fuel gauge.

If you vote for candidate X and the machine gives you a receipt for candidate X, how do you know that it didn't count candidate Y internally?

If you have a paper ballot, how do you know that your ballot will be counted as you marked it? In Florida in 2000 we had hanging chads, pregnant chads, ballots with more than one candidate selected. In Alaska we had people misspelling LIsa Murkowski's name and Joe Miller challenged these ballots. We had people circling the checkbox and these ballots were not allowed.

In order to have a fair election you need to have an accurate count.

You need to know how many ballots were actually cast.

You need to count by machine so that results can be published in a timely manner.

You need to count each and every ballot.

You need to be able to hand count a subset to check accuracy.

Years ago the transit companies figured out a way to keep their drivers honest. They were working without supervision and collecting cash fares from the public. They put a bell and counter into the streetcar and when a passenger came aboard and the fare was collected, the bell would ring and the counter would increment. This kept the drivers honest because the passengers would complain if they didn't see this happen. Why should they have to pay to ride when somebody else isn't. And why should they have to work hard for their pay packet when the driver is pocketing fares?

I'd like to see a bell and counter on the wall at every polling place. When you cast your vote the bell goes off and the counter goes up by one.

At the end of the night we would know exactly how many ballots were cast at each polling station.

For the ballot itself, I'd like to see a modified OCR system.

We can have a touchscreen where you pick the candidate. The screen would show your choices. It could be multiple screens or just one depending on how many things we're voting on.

You would touch the candidate's name that you want to vote for. The machine would be programmed so that you would have to vote for the correct number of candidates for each position.

When you're happy with your choices you would touch the PRINT button. A clean, crisp, clearly and legally marked paper ballot would come out showing your choices. You would look this over to make sure that it is accurate and you would then feed it into the OCR scanner which would read the ballot, ring the bell and increment the counter.

At the end of the night the machine would indicate how many ballots it had which would match the counter on the wall. The results would be available immediately and could be communicated to the central counting facility. And the ballots could be hand counted if necessary for checking and there wouldn't be any illegal ballots.

There would be no ballot box stuffing, no dead people voting, no filled ballot boxes suddenly found in the storeroom.

Each voter would make sure that his ballot was correctly marked and the machine would make sure that it was clear and legal. OCR is very accurate and with a standardized printed ballot without any hand markings it would be 100% accurate.
The equipment already exists in ATMs.

At the local Bank of America the ATM accepts checks or stacks of up to 40 bills without an envelope. You feed them into the slot and it sucks
it in and reads the amount and shows an image of the check on the screen.

If a bill is too crumpled it will spit it back out and keep the rest.

I don't see why that can't be scaled up to accept an 8.5x11 sheet of paper or even 8.5x14 if the ballot gets too big.

The machines already capture the checks, ocr them and put the amount into the database and keep the checks and cash in a secure lockbox. Why not do the same for ballots?