Rise of the Machines

Before the election falls entirely out of memory, I wanted to note this interview with Dr. Barbara Simons of the Advisory Board of the Federal Election Assistance Commission about how eVoting went this election cycle. You get a nice summary of the role of the advisory board and the efforts underway to try to ensure reliable voting. Perhaps the most interesting quote was with respect to the composition of the advisory board:

I was appointed by Senator Harry Reid to one of the four seats on the Election Assistance – on the Board of Advisors which are designated for technologists. However, I really am the only technologist on the Board of Advisors so far as I know. There are no other Computer Scientists on that Board and no Statisticians.

But if you are more interested in whether these machines are corrupting our election system, the following insight is both fascinating and a bit worrying:

What’s interesting–what’s going to be fascinating about this is that most of the precincts in Minnesota use the ES&S-M100 scanners and so when this recount–this manual recount occurs it’s going to be a check on how accurate these scanners are. Now there was a problem in Michigan with these same scanners where some early testing showed some discrepancies between what the scanners reported and what should have been, and so this is really going to be quite fascinating. It’s not clear what the outcome is going to be.

Dr Simons also suggests that we ought to be doing a statistically significant number of random recounts around the country to increase confidence in potentially close races. She also enumerates some of the reasons Florida and Ohio have moved away from the touch-screen machines they had adopted, and where electronic devices for checking voters against the voter registration databases on-site caused problems. There seems to be a bit of a trend back towards older voting technology that results in paper ballots, like optical scan systems. It’s a good read if you are interested in the intersection between technology and politics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *