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Saturday, October 02, 2004

Toronto City Clerk Report - 1999 - Voting and Vote-counting System - Municipal Elections

Using the RFP number 3412-99-01464 I have found some more Toronto documents.

I love this analysis.

4.0 Direct Recording Electronic (Touch Screen)

...

Recounts using these machines have proven to be one of the closest systems to 100%.

ha ha ha ha ha

That's hilarious.
Of course the recounts are always the same. THERE'S NOTHING TO RECOUNT.
They are saying, roughly "every time I ask this machine to produce its vote count total, it produces the same numbers".

Hmm, when I store a number in my pocket calculator's memory, it produces the same number each time too. Maybe we should replace our paper voting with pocket calculators.

Plus which, "closest to 100%"?
Are you saying sometimes the machines report different results from their memory banks?

(Sorry, in sarcastic mood today.)

Anyway, the report is
May 6, 1999

To: Corporate Services Committee
Budget Committee

From: City Clerk

Subject: Voting and Vote-counting System - Municipal Elections
www.city.toronto.on.ca/legdocs/1999/agendas/committees/cs/cs990520/it005.htm

It examines the following types of voting systems:
1.0 Mechanical Lever Machines
2.0 Punchcards
3.0 Optical Mark Reading (Optical Scan)
4.0 Direct Recording Electronic (Touch Screen)
5.0 Telephone
6.0 Mail
7.0 Automated Terminals or Kiosks
8.0 Internet

Conclusion:

After reviewing all of the current voting/vote-counting systems available to the City and examining them in relationship to the principles established, it is recommended that the best voting/vote-counting system for the City of Toronto would be a combination of optical scan - voting place tabulator and direct recording electronic (touch screen). The optical scan - voting place tabulator provides the best practice available given its reliability, integrity and similarity to paper ballot. The electorates' familiarity and acceptance with this type of vote-counting equipment ensures the greatest likelihood of continued success utilizing this type of system.

The advancement in technology makes direct recording electronic (touch screen) a viable alternative in a limited variety. Its portability provides greater flexibility to employ these units for specialized needs (i.e. institutional voting, physically challenged voting and an advance voting program). By employing the use of these units the advance voting program could support an additional 500 potential advance voting locations.

Request for Proposal:

In order to comply with Council's request to provide updated costs of a recommended voting and vote tabulation system, and to ensure sufficient lead time for the delivery of the system in time for Election 2000, a Request for Proposal (RFP No. 3412-99-01464) was issued for an Optical Scan Voting System and Touch Screen Voting System in February 1999. The purpose of this Request For Proposal was to provide updated figures for the Capital Works Program and determine the most effective Optical Scan Voting System and Touch Screen Voting System in the marketplace.

Subject to the approval by Council of this report, the results of the Request For Proposal together with recommendations on the award of contract will be forwarded to the Administration Committee for consideration in July, 1999.

This is the analysis they provide for DRE machines

Advantages:

a) easiest of all voting systems for the voter;

b) results are quickly available;

c) no extra costs for materials (i.e., ballots);

d) recounts have proven to be extremely accurate; and

e) most technologically advanced form of voting in the marketplace.

Disadvantages:

a) notable large capital investment required; and

b) new voting method for voters - could result in long lineups.

I don't even know where to begin.
What difference does it make how "technologically advanced" it is?
Two disadvantages? How about
c) Massive possibility for incorrect results due to fraud or incorrect programming
d) Complete loss of transparency in elections process

Who wrote this analysis, a high school student?
Sorry, that's an insult to high school students.

Earlier on in the report, there is a very telling presentation of background

Historically, composite paper ballot elections have been prone to human error, particularly:

a) subjective discretion applied when deciding valid votes;

b) tallying votes when the deputy returning officer is communicating votes to the poll clerk orally; and

c) transposition errors when carrying figures from tally sheets to final statements.

In addition, the operating costs associated with composite paper ballot elections is as much as three times that of an automated election. The increase in costs include;

a) the requirement for more voting subdivisions with fewer voters to ensure the manageability of the counting process;

b) the employment of staff at the voting places and additional staff to count ballots at the close of voting; and

c) the associated recount costs.

Summary: Humans and paper are unreliable and expensive. Computers are better. Subjectivity is eliminated, all is perfect objective computer logic. All hail our robot king!

There's only one problem with this presentation.
It's wrong.

I would rather trust humans than machines.
Voting is not about achieving the maximum cost-effective calculational efficiency.

It's about having a system that people can understand and trust, so that they have faith that the election reflects the will of the people.

A paper system with humans counting has explicit, obvious workings and checks and balances.

An electronic system has nothing. Invisible electronic pulses. Silent hidden programs.

You might as well take all the paper ballots into a locked room and say "trust us, we have a wonderful machine in this magic room that will count everything, sorry, you can't see it, we'll tell you the results in a moment".
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