Transparency, Voting Machines, Choices

Today I provide the next step in clarifying TTV goals in relation to discussions with election transparency advocates. Regarding the previous posting, I want to emphasize that voting  machines — in this case we focus on paper ballot scanning machines — are a transparency problem, if there is no human involvement in counting paper ballots, and the public has no access to audit records of the counting process. Even with current systems, election officials can choose to mitigate these difficulties; and as I said before, we will deliver to them some technology that can make that a lot easier to do.

Today, I wanted to talk about choices. In discussion about voting machines as part of the problem, it seemed like TTV might also be part of the problem too, because we are failing to advocate for either or both of the use of hand counting of paper ballots, or abandoning the use of paper ballot scanning devices. So let me be clear about that: it is true that we are not advocating for those positions, not influencing legislators to make such changes in election law, and not advocating that election officials should make those particular changes in their election methods. Such advocacy work may be to the public benefit, and is rightly performed by activists and advocates.

The choice is with election officials, on how to use available technology. In making available some new paper-ballot-counting technology, we are not advocating that a particular voting method be used. I’ve listed several voting methods below, as illustration of many choices that election officials could make, all of them choices in which new voting technology could be used, and could help with transparency. With the exception of advocates of completely zero machine count usage (and that is a worthy topic for another day), we hope that advocates of many positions might extend the benefit of the doubt that our efforts can help, at a minimum with some interesting “side effects” that I’ll discuss next time.


PS: Here is that list of several kinds of voting methods:

  • Polling-place machine-counted paper ballots, centrally machine-counted other ballots, and minimum 2% partial hand-counting in a risk-limiting audit methodology;
  • Similar, but 100% hand-counting, for full benefit of each co-eval counting method checking the other (consilience), and a standard methodology for auditing and resolving differences;
  • Hand-counting, with machine-counting for consilience benefits in recounts, and in automaticly triggered audits of contests above a specified “close result” level;
  • Polling place electronic voting (no paper ballots), centrally machine-counted vote by mail ballots;

As you can see, that’s a broad range, and with variants of each, there are dozens of choices. Paper ballot scanning/counting devices have a role in each, and do not preclude any of these choices. Again: 100% hand count, 0% machine count is a separate topic I promise to get to.

One response to “Transparency, Voting Machines, Choices

  1. I notice you either do not make the distinction between software-based machines and mechanical machines like the lever voting machines or you have not considered lever machines as an option. Lever machines provide a high degree of transparency. Any tampering or malfunction is obvious and not hidden and is confined to the affected machine and cannot be spread system wide.

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