Citizens for Verifiable Voting   ManualCountAuditStVrain UserPreferences
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In Boulder County, Colorado, on December 7 2004 there was a ManualCountAudit of a small sample of ballots to audit the results of the Hart Intercivic BallotNow vote counting system during the recount of the St. Vrain School District Ballot Issue 3a race.

It discovered a previously unknown problem - that some of the damaged ballots were probably automaticly resolved, which caused some votes to be misinterpreted.

The sample was apparently chosen on the previous Friday afternoon by grabbing some of the few batches that had not yet been scanned.

The count was off by one. Three batches were audited. The manual tally for batch "C126" was 47 "yes", 49 "no", and 1 "undervote". But the Ballot Now count was 47 "yes", 48 "no", and 2 "undervote". For the other two batches, the manual tally matched the Ballot Now tally. A total of 287 ballots were tallied manually.

Subsequent lengthy investigation via the audit log identified a vote in precinct 4171107002 on ballot 656372 which was clearly marked on the ballot as a "No" vote (the box was completely filled in), but was recorded via Ballot Now as an undervote (as if the voter had voted neither yes nor no). The Ballot Now audit log noted an "Auto Resolve UnderVote" for the St. Vrain race on that ballot, along with "Autoresolve damaged contest".

The ballot looked perfectly normal and undamaged. The barcodes on the 4 pages of this particular ballot were significantly different in length, which may or may not be a problem. E.g. the barcode of the serial number ranged from 41 mm to 43.5 mm long. Ballot Now uses the bar codes to help it locate where the boxes are on the ballot. Either because of the barcode length or for other reasons, it identified this ballot as "damaged". The ballot was rescanned as a new batch of size 1, and brought up on the screen for resolution. The St Vrain race was highlighted as "damaged". When the race was popped up in its own window (a narrow window, as usual), the title of the window read "Unresolved dama", i.e. the whole title wasn't visible. Opening the window up wider revealed the whole title which said "Unresolved damaged undervoted contest".

So Ballot Now had originally identified at race on that ballot as needing resolution, and incorrectly interpreted it by default as an undervote.

Next came the human resolution process. Interpreting the audit log was difficult. There are two theories for how the race could have been resolved as an undervote.

One theory is that the ballot was simply not shown to the resolution judges. During the recount, the teams were only resolving the St Vrain race, and the normal user interface cues were less useful than normal in helping the team identify all races needing resolution. Next, a subsequent "autoresolve" process preserved the mistaken, automatic "undervote" interpretation.

Another theory is that since the user interface is confusing, and the word "undervoted" in the title bar may not have been visible, the resolution team may have seen the clear "No" vote and clicked on "confirm". In this case that would place the text "Confirm User" over both the yes and no boxes, which again is confusing. It is intended as an indication that the system is about to confirm both votes as absent, but not all resolution teams fully understood the hints that the system provides.

The Canvass Board was briefed on the problem, but declined to investigate how extensive the problem was, either by hand counting more batches, or by examining the audit log to look for similar resolutions.

--Neal McBurnett

EditText of this page (last modified 2005-03-12 07:49:24)
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