Voting Project Needs Python People

Alan Dechert adechert at
Tue Jul 22 02:00:31 CEST 2003

"Paul Rubin" <> wrote in message
news:7x65lv31hf.fsf at
> "Alan Dechert" <adechert at> writes:
> > > 1. Software chooses 1% of votes to change (big enough to have an
> > >    effect, small enough to maybe go unnoticed).
> > >
> > I don't think this is a possible scenario.  However, it brings up an
> > interesting test for our full blown study (keep in mind, we're trying to
> > focus on getting the demo done even though people want to jump ahead to
> > speculate on every possible detail).
> But something like that seems to have happened in Escambia County,
> Florida, in 2000.  Out of 21,500 absentee ballots cast, 296 (1.5% of
> the total) were overvotes with three or more presidential candidates
> checked.  ZERO were overvotes with exactly two candidates checked.
> Ballot tampering after the ballots were received is the most plausible
> explanation.
But that's a different scenario.  As you described it, the voter never had a
chance to see the alteration.  The scenario Harry described is where the
voter has the altered ballot in hand but doesn't notice.

> You said that in your system the paper ballots are
> supposed to take priority over the electronic count if there is a
> dispute (that's the whole point of having the paper ballots).  So it
> doesn't matter if the paper and electronic results don't match, and
> the tampering doesn't have to happen while the voter can still see the
> ballot.
I don't see much of a point here.  It will be very hard -- if not
impossible -- to tamper with the printout in a manner that would go
undetected.  First of all, overvotes will not be possible at all.  I can't
quite visualize how you figure someone will alter the printout.  Take some
whiteout and cover one name and print in a new one?  That would look pretty
obvious.  Furthermore, the bar code would no longer match the text.  In my
scheme, the tamperer would have no way to know how to alter the bar code to
match any alterations in the text.

Post election checks (canvass period) would involve hand checks, and scanner
checks of the bar code and the text.  It all has to match.

> Reference:
> Note: Paul Lukasiak, the main author of that article, did some of the
> most thorough analysis of the Florida debacle that I've seen.  I hope
> you will read a lot of his stuff in designing your real system, so
> you'll be able to say how your system deals with the problems that he
> identified in Florida.
I read as much as possible and will continue to study all of this.  Keep in
mind that some of the people on our team are leading experts in the field.
They know all this stuff inside out.  We'll bring in more experts once the
study is funded.

Nobody is saying this issue is simple.  Almost everyone that has approached
the voting mess dilemma and tried to figure it out has grossly
underestimated the problem.  I have to say I underestimated too but I have
stuck with it long enough and hard enough to get a handle on it.  Our
Election Rules Database (the largest component of our proposed study) will
surface inordinate problems -- get them out in the open where we can deal
with them.

Alan Dechert

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