Thursday, October 28, 2004

Just FYI

New Scientist had a good article on the "huge experiment in electronic voting" that will take place on November 2.
Democratic elections are supposed to be decided by the will of the people. That principle was called into question by the 2000 election for the president of the United States of America, which was famously determined by just 537 votes in Florida and one Supreme Court decision. In November, it may be under scrutiny again, as another close presidential election could be decided by the accuracy of a raft of new voting technologies.
The article notes that by one standard measure, touchscreen voting machines are actually less accurate than punch cards.
The accuracy of a voting system is often assessed by what is called the "residual vote". This is the difference between the number of voters who turn up at polling stations and the total number of votes allocated to the candidates. Voters can still choose to spoil their ballots, but if one system regularly produces a higher residual vote than another its accuracy may be questioned.
Optical scanners have a residual vote of around 2.1%. Punch cards run 2.9%. Touchscreen machines are at 3.0% - nearly half again higher than optical scanners.

The whole article, which also notes issues affecting paper ballots and lever-pull voting machines, is definitely worth a read.

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