Monday, February 18, 2008

Validity and Value

Today story, "L.A. County ballot design went unnoticed for six years," provides a cautionary tale for information designers about a flaw in the printing of materials for the actual mechanics of voting that has invalidated tens of thousands of votes.

With the attention paid to electronic voting, I might argue that proponents have focused too much on getting votes tabulated quickly rather than increasing the number of valid ballots among those who go to the polls. Current scanning technology installed at polling places detects ballots with overvoting, so it's a mystery why no one programmed the machines to detect this problem for nonpartisan voters participating in California primaries, many of whom may have also mistakenly marked "Independent" on their ballots, since they were unaware that this represented a political party with candidates and contests of its own. As Chris Kelty has pointed out, little attention has been paid to rethinking deliberative processes during the debate about the security of electronic voting.

As someone who has actually been a poll worker, I would say that ballot counting isn't that difficult to do, but the problem is making sure that provisional ballots are kept separate and that the number of signatures on the voting rosters matches the verified total in the box at the end of the day. In other words, the issue is validity not value, just like the order of magnitude on currency denominations may be in some ways less important than its non-counterfeit status.

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