e-Talk Radio: Pressman, Roger, 14 November 2000

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So I've spent a little bit of time looking into numbers, just for my own edification. It turns out that isn't correct. There were approximately 6,000, what might be considered to be double-punched ballots. There were another 7,000 that were not punched at all, either people forgot to punch them or whatever. Six thousand is the key number. And we compare that this year to 19,000, that's a very big difference.

Carol: Oh, and you see a significant difference in that.

Roger: Yes. I mean I don't want to sound like I'm advocating for anyone, because believe me, I'm not really very political. But the numbers are reasonably clear here. And when you think about them, it's really mindboggling. I mean, Florida had 6 million votes cast. The current differential according to CNN a few moments ago was 280 or 300 votes. That's 5/1000 of one percent. And thinking of this as a system, understand clearly that what we're talking about is five errors per 100,000 votes cast. That's a very small margin of error in any machine that counts votes or any human that counts votes. So what we've got here, I believe anyway, is that we are literally within the margin of error of any existing counting mechanism. And what that means, in my opinion, is that any time we do a count we're going to come up with different numbers.

Carol: Right.

Roger: Because we're within the margin of error. Clearly within it.

Carol: And you can never get 100%. You could approach 100% accuracy…

Roger: Not with the systems we have currently. I think we could begin to get very close to 100% accuracy, but not with the existing systems.

Carol: And there's a cost that goes with it.

Roger: Exactly. Somebody said the other day that if New York State, just New York State, were to implement a computer-based solution to polling, to voting, I'm sorry, at the polls, it would cost them $100 million. That's a significant sum of money. And when you extrapolate out to a nation-wide system, it would certainly cost well over a billion or a few billion dollars. Now, it would be interesting to know whether people thought it was worth it. And then there a lot of other issues as well. Security is a critical issue. As well as some others. But cost is nontrivial for a good system. The question is how much are we, as American citizens, willing to pay to get the kind of a voting system that wouldn't let us down like this one has.

Carol: And that's an interesting thing, because you'd really only be using it necessarily, once every two years, once every year, for some of the…

Roger: Well, that's exactly right. But then again, you can argue that the citizens are completely willing to spend a couple of hundred million dollars for a sports stadium that's only used every Sunday.

Carol: Right.

Roger: And I think there are a lot of people who are listening who would probably say it's much, the money is much better spent on the stadium for the Cardinals or whatever, than it would be spent on politicians. And I couldn't really argue that point. But the reality of it is, we are willing to expend large sums of taxpayer dollars for systems or things that are used intermittently. And the question is whether those dollars would be well spent on a voting system that undoubtedly is used only intermittently.

Carol: And we'll be back with more of Roger Pressman after these short messages.

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