For background on this post, check out the Auditing Takoma Park 2009 Election.
I’m gathering all documentation on a Google Site. This blog will continue to serve as the narrative, while the datasets and documentation will live on the Google Site, and I’ll refer to them as needed from this blog.
Let’s begin with an explanation of the voting process that Takoma Park citizens will experience on November 3rd, 2009.
(If you’re a Takoma Park resident: make sure to register by October 5th if you want to participate in this historic election!)
Say hello to Valerie, our token voter. At a high level, Valerie’s voting experience is identical to her past experience with a typical optical-scan election. She fills in the bubbles for the candidates of her choice, casts her ballot, and walks away. With one twist: if Valerie wants to, she can write down some confirmation codes that will let her audit her ballot later on.
- Valerie arrives at her precinct and identifies herself as she normally does for any other election.
- Valerie receives a ballot that looks exactly like an optical scan ballot: a sheet of paper with a bubble next to each candidate name. The ballot has a serial number.
- Valerie also receives a special “decoder” marker pen.
- When Valerie uses the pen to fill in a bubble, a two-letter code is revealed within the bubble.
- Valerie can record her two-letter confirmation codes for each candidate she has selected. This is her receipt. The printed ballot includes a detachable receipt, with the ballot serial number pre-printed, for just this purpose.
Then Valerie goes home. She’s got her receipt, and she wants to check that her vote was counted correctly.
Once home, Valerie logs into the verification web site, and looks up her ballot number, #00042. She compares the confirmation codes on the screen with the ones she recorded in the booth. If still unsure, she asks her favorite political organization to perform the check on her behalf. Importantly, this political organization doesn’t get to see the choices the Valerie actually made, only the confirmation codes.
So, now some questions:
- what ensures that the confirmation code correctly maps to the option Valerie selected?
- from there, how is the tallying of selected options verified?
In other words, great, Valerie’s got confirmation codes…. but what do they mean?
We’ll explore that in the next episode.