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Topic: New project: certification in statistics
Replies: 17   Last Post: Nov 20, 2000 3:14 PM

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Thom Baguley

Posts: 157
Registered: 12/12/04
Re: manual recount - of punched ballots
Posted: Nov 16, 2000 9:49 AM
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Herman Rubin wrote:
> It is not clear where the "complications" in the American
> system originated, but what you call "federal" countries
> in Europe would not be considered federal in the US, but
> central. The United STATES was formed as a confederation
> of sovereign states.

Agreed, that there are differences in the two (but also similarities).

> From Colonial times, people voted for their representatives
> in the colonial legislatures, and also for county officials.
> In those days, the governors of the colonies were appointed
> by the British, so those would have to be added, and the
> Federal legislators and candidates for President were added
> to this. The upper houses in the US are elected as well.
> So in this past election, I voted for 1 federal executive
> position, 2 different federal legislative positions, 4 state
> executive positions, 2 state legislative positions, plus
> judges and county executive and legislative positions, and
> one amendment to the state constitution.

Thanks for the info. Multiple elections of this type are common in the UK too
(though typically we use separate ballots ISTR).

> What are the true totals? More than 90% of the ballots are
> correct, but the question is about errors, Machines cannot make
> certain types of errors, but can improperly reject ballots.
> Hand counting of ballots can introduce major biases, in the
> common meaning of the term.

I think that is a very good point. In our elections we have a pretty clear
idea of what constitutes the "true" counts. Counting is by hand and the
procedures for deciding when a ballot is spoiled are well specified. In most
cases recounts continue until all candidates are satisfied with the result. I
know of know case where a UK election has been disputed because of biased
counts. All candidates are allowed observers during the count and the count is
conducted by independent non-elected local government officials.

> This is ONE of the methods used in the US, and is the method used
> in absentee voting (where the voter does not vote at the precinct
> ballot box on election day). Honest counting here is quite good,
> but fraud (stuffing the ballot box) has been a problem all long.
> However, hand counting of a ballot with candidates for 20 or more
> positions is slow going. A moderate sized precinct, with 500
> voting, gives 10,000 votes to be recorded. Mechanical counters
> used as voting machines started in the last century, and were
> widely used; in these cases, recounts were limited to checking
> the numbers, and checking these against the total number of
> voters in the precinct. I have used punched card ballots, and
> I consider them to be one of the worst means of doing things.

The data seem to bear that out! Fraud is extremely rare outside Northern
Ireland (at least in my lifetime). General election counts take several hours
for 30 to 40 thousand votes (some city councils are very efficient because the
polling stations are close together).


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