Thursday, November 06, 2008

Do not use “auto-resolve damaged contest”

The problem mentioned in the Gideon report is completely soluble or at least identifiable if “auto-resolve damaged contest” is not used.

In Eagle County we “auto-resolve undervotes” only. It seems that “auto resolve undervotes” is relatively harmless, if not completely so. The experience we have is that if any mark however light is found within the target the BNIP software detects either a vote or an overvote, and if there is any damage to the existing ballot target (occlusion of the target rectangle), manual resolution of a “damaged contest” is required. It is almost impossible for a foreign particle or something causing a white line to produce an undervote, unless “autoresolve damaged contest” is selected. One would have to imagine a particle of precise size and placement to occlude the entire voter mark without touching the surrounding rectangle. I would therefore recommend to operate with auto-resolve undervote selected (only). Having turned off auto-resolution of undervotes, the manual resolution of undervotes would be extremely time consuming and would not produce any differences due to human recognized voter intent. We have actually tried this in Eagle County in the early scanning of our mail-in ballots and have come to that conclusion.

On the other hand, if foreign particles, smudges or other spurious marks are causing extraneous marks on the scanned images of the ballots which are being recognized as votes, the solution would be a real hand eye scan of each contest which is actually resolved as a vote- i.e. in Hart, a contest which is not marked with a colored overlay at all- and this of course is generally the majority of all contests on all the ballot images. There is no way to select for slightly marked, or less than fully marked targets within the Hart system as far as I know. This is the function that would be required to help find the effect of spurious marks. Also of course, the “none of the above” option as a choice on the ballot would greatly help in finding spurious marks- without this the system is depending on the likelihood that an overvote will be generated to find that such a problem exists. If you know the problem already exists and is significant, then effectively, each contest must be hand counted… although it may be convenient to use the optically scanned version of the ballot to conduct this hand count and to use the hart resolution software interface to reflect and record the observed voter intent.

Having now experienced the resolution process first hand, I can say that there are some very interesting patterns of mis-voting which arise, and spurious marks certainly do create overvote situations. No doubt then, the same effects will cause voter undervoted contests to mistakenly become recognized as voted.

Harvie Branscomb
Eagle County Canvass Board

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