RE: confederacy of dunces*

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From: Lisa Dusseault (
Date: Wed Nov 29 2000 - 00:29:25 PST

Not that I believe in this, but I can think of several reasons why a hand
recount that includes more discrimating (yet still unbiased) judgement might
favour Gore. Guess I'm just creative tonight. I'm sure one could also make
arguments for the other way around, I just haven't bothered to.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jeff Bone []
> You're telling me that, for some reason, in the disputed
> counties, the machines tended to discount votes particularly
> and disproportionately when the ballot in
> question was for Gore?
> Why in the world would that be?

1. Because poor counties might have crappy machines. Poor counties might
tend to vote Dem in hope of entitlements. These counties would have larger
quantities of uncounted votes than rich counties, and many of these would be
Gore votes if the uncounted cards were randomly sampled. "The county
[Allegheny] elections division continues to rely on the old voting machines
because it can't afford the electronic, virtually error-proof systems now
utilized in two nearby counties." [4]

2. Although I would hope the voting machine manufacturer test this, there
may be a bias built into the machines. The punch might not operate as well
in every position, producing pregnant chads in some cases.

3. I believe the candidates are ordered consistently on the ballots: the
front-runner first, and so on down the popularity list. This consistently
puts Al in #2 spot. It might be slightly easier to position the punch over
the first candidate without mistake, than it is to position the punch over
the second candidate, depending on the type of the machine.[1] Similarly,
if the machines have multiple levers [3] and if W is consistently placed
first, then the easiest lever for people to line up with the name correctly
is probably the first one. Or if visual recognition of numbers is
required, '#2' is easy to confuse with '#3' visually and in location.

"With the Votomatic card, the locations at which holes may be punched to
indicate votes are each assigned numbers. The number of the hole is the only
information printed on the card. The list of candidates or ballot issue
choices and directions for punching the corresponding holes are printed in a
separate booklet." [2]

Mistaking #3 for #2 somehow would certainly be a mistake, but is it the kind
that a recount would uncover? It may be that a voter would go for the wrong
guy initially, then correct their mistake but the ballot would already be
somewhat marked/cut. Then a machine vote reader might reject the ballot as
double-counted, but a human be able to detect the intent.

4. Because Gore's supporters may have less education, when given a chance to
make pencil marks, they may be more likely to mark the wrong guy then try to
erase or just fill in the right guy with darker/larger markings. Naive
users (unfamiliar with how machines count) might not realize their vote is
probably now spoiled. Human vote counters, again, might be discrimintory
enough to determine intent.

> Again: it doesn't matter how accurate or inaccurate the machines
> are: if used
> uniformly, there's no conceivable reason why the results should
> favor one candidate
> over another.

The fact that machine quality might correlate with regional income might
correlate with voting patterns is the simplest thing that could affect
uniformity. In which direction, who knows.


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