Civic Design

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Technology as a solution in 1957: "Behind the Freedom Curtain"

This 1957 film housed in the Internet Archives in the Prelinger Archives is a tutorial on how mechanical lever machines work -- with a little chauvinistic flag-waving thrown in for good measure. It is very much a period piece (remember HUAC?), but also does a good job of explaining the kinds of mistakes that voters make on paper ballots. The Automatic Voting Machine Co. that made the film makes the case that those mistakes can't be made on the lever machine. See: http://www.archive.org/details/Behindth1957.

Go from that film to the results of a review of the November 2008 election in Florida, where 15 counties switched from direct record electronic (DRE) voting machines to paper, optical scan ballots. Twice as many ballots were rejected in 2008 than were rejected in 2004. But still, the rejection rate was 0.75%, well below the 2.9% in 2000, and below the "expected" residual vote rate of about 1% on average. From the New York Times on February 26, 2009:
The final report sent to state lawmakers showed that 0.75 percent, or 63,680 of the 8.39 million ballots cast in Florida, did not count in the presidential race. Barack Obama defeated John McCain in Florida by more than 236,000 votes. In the presidential race four years earlier, the rate of uncounted ballots was 0.41 percent, equating to about 31,000 votes.
Read the whole New York Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/26/us/26florida.html?nl=pol&emc=pola1.

In 2004, George W. Bush defeated John Kerry in Florida by 380,978 votes. In 2000, Al Gore received 543,895 more individual votes nationally than George W. Bush, but Bush received more electoral votes. In Florida in 2000, the margin of victory was 0.0092%, in favor of Bush. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2000 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2004.)

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