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


this absolutely illustrates that we've got software everywhere in our lives, but not absolutely everywhere. It's not consistent, and in some places, in this election in particular, they had some very, very advanced voting systems.

Roger: Well, they had very advanced voting systems in some places. Oregon is an example where at least they had absentee ballots submitted as the only ballot you could submit. But as we can see, even in the Oregon system, there's been a very lengthy delay in getting all the votes counted. The vast majority of voting systems in this country are very old. As an example, I happened to notice this today in a major newspaper in South Florida, a very good newspaper, I might add, the Sun-Sentinel, they noted that across the country, 20% of all votes are cast using lever-based voting machines, mechanical machines that were invented about 100 years ago. And they're very error prone, and not really very reliable, and almost 30% of all votes cast in this country are cast using the punchcard system that we used in Palm Beach County, much to our dismay. The problem isn't the punching. The problem was an ergonomic problem, which we might want to talk about later, because ergonomics is a critically important issue in the design of anything, including human interfaces. Certainly, a ballot is a human interface. And this one was designed so poorly that actually when I saw it in the voting booth I laughed. Unfortunately, it turned out it wasn't a laughing matter. As we can see by the huge number of errors and double punches and all other kinds of nonsense that occurred. So we really are very archaic in this country in the way we vote. The problem, it seems to me, is a political one. It's also based on cost and timeliness and availability and a lot of other issues, which us techies can't really address. But certainly we can't continue with the system we have, or we're liable to have the problem again, as I said earlier.

Carol: Right. And I think that's interesting that you went in and you looked at this ballot. The ballot was redesigned in 1996, was it not? Or is the same ballot that was used, same style of ballot that was used…

Roger: Well, the voting mechanism, the punchcard mechanism, has been used down here for many, many, many years. The ballot was redesigned for the year 2000.

Carol: Oh, okay.

Roger: And the reason it was redesigned was, as has been reported correctly in the media, at least my understanding from the media is that it was redesigned to make it more legible for senior citizens who need larger type. And that's understandable. And secondarily, because there were nine different candidates on the ballot, not just two or three or four, but nine different candidates on the ballot, we needed what has now become known as the infamous butterfly ballot. The problem is that when people read a list, whether they're reading on the Internet or reading a computer-based report, or reading a ballot, they're used to reading the list top-down and left to right. This particular ballot, the butterfly ballot, was not set up that way. And it obviously confused a lot of people.

Carol: And what's interesting to me is one of the things that I didn't realize about Palm Beach County is that apparently in the 1996 election, there were 15,000 double punched…

Roger: Again, there's an awful lot of poor reporting, bad reporting. And one thing that I am is a numbers person.

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