Tuesday, November 02, 2004

dutcher posts, in comments below, a coherent explanation for what was going on with crazy strange apparent voting machine snafu-fraud in travis county (and other places using the e-vote machines):

On this particular machine, when you select a "straight ticket" vote, it causes all races that have a candidate for the selected party to be highlighted with a red dot. Other candidates are dimmed into a grey color with lower contrast than you have before you make a selection. How could a voter get confused? The "straight ticket" selection appears as the top "race" on the ballot. You turn the "select" wheel to scroll to the party you want and press the big "Center" button. After this, the machine helpfully advances the current selection to the next race, the presidential race. If a voter were to think that the "Center" button had not done anything yet (perhaps because there is a noticable delay while it is performing the selection) and were to then press the button again, they might indeed end up selecting the top candidate on the list of presidential candidates, who just happens to be George W. Bush."


How can the vendor engineer their system to avoid the problem next time around? For starters, they could reduce the latency after selecting a straight ticket with some performance tuning of their software. They could also use a “Just a minute…” popup window of some kind to make it clear that the machine got the command and is working on processing it. They could even consider ignoring button presses that occured while the machine was busy. However, whatever they try, they need to evaluate it. It’s called the scientific method. You get a bunch of test subject voters, with demographics representing people in the real world rather than just college students, and you can experimentally compare the “control” group with the old system to the “experimental” group with the modified system. If the control group is more accurate, then you go back to the drawing board."


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