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Re: Diebold Admits Audit Logs in ALL Versions of Their Software Fail to Record Ballot Deletions
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Sun, 22 Mar 2009 11:48:45 -0400

Begin forwarded message:

From: Stephen Unger <unger () cs columbia edu>
Date: March 22, 2009 11:47:39 AM EDT
To: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Cc: ip <ip () v2 listbox com>
Subject: Re: [IP] Re: Diebold Admits Audit Logs in ALL Versions of Their Software Fail to Record Ballot Deletions

On Sat, 21 Mar 2009, David Farber wrote:

Begin forwarded message:

From: Moz <list () moz geek nz>
Date: March 21, 2009 12:07:08 PM EDT
To: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Subject: Re: [IP] Re: Diebold Admits Audit Logs in ALL Versions of Their Software Fail to Record Ballot Deletions

Joseph Lorenzo Hall said:
[go paper?] we have very complicated ballots in the US with state,
local and federal races on the same ballot. When combined with the
mess that is our primary system, many *individual precincts/polling
places* can have dozens of different ballot styles available.
Counting these in a timely fashion can be very tough.

Many countries have complicated ballots. Australia has had the famous
"tablecloth ballot", where there are so many voting options for a
single race that a ballot paper just for that race becomes
ridiculously large. But they manage.

The key, in my opinion, is that elections are run by professionals.
There is a government department with permanent staff whose job is
purely the operation of the electoral system. Those officials are not
elected. There's the Australian Electoral Commission (www.aec.govt.au)
and New Zealand being smaller just has an Electoral Office in the
Ministry of Justice ( http://www.electionresults.govt.nz/). In both
countries you can also hire those people to run any election that's
worth spending the money on (some unions use them, for instance)

This means that even with relatively complex elections votes are
counted quickly and published quickly. Results that are challenged
can be delayed while a recount is done, but because the political
parties are involved as scrutineers and the referee is independent
those challenges tend to happen on the spot and are often resolved

New Zealand has a lot of secondary things that make their elections a
model: "intention of the voter" test, elections held on weekends,
an emphasis on making it easy for people to vote (legally and in
practice), any legal resident over 18 can vote (no taxation without


Several states, including California, Texas, and Colorado indeed have
bloated ballots (in some, but not all, of their elections)with perhaps
more than 40 races. But most states do NOT. These include all the New
England states, New York, New Jersey, and many Southern states. New
Hampshire sometimes has ballots with up to 25 races. About 80% of
their polling places use hand-counted paper ballots (HCPB) without
difficulty, even in precincts that have to handle over two thousand
ballots (the average number in the US is well under one thousand).

Some ways in which ballot bloat is handled abroad are indicated above.

There are also other factors that make the problem less formidable
than it might appear at first glance. One is that all bit a relatively
few races on the bloated ballots are of a low priority nature. Not
many people wait in agonized suspense to learn who was elected
Register of Deeds, or whether Judge Jones is going to remain in
office. A great many of the "races" are uncontested. So the two or
three significant races can be put on a separate ballot and tabulated

In any event, the fact that a minority of states have bloated ballots
is no reason for states such as New York,Virginia, Missouri,New
Jersey, or Wisconsin, which have fewer than 20 races per election, not
to use HCPB, which are far less vulnerable to fraud if run properly,
and which also cost less than e-voting elections.


Stephen H. Unger
Professor Emeritus
Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
Columbia University

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