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WIRED: Tricky E-Voting Comes to Oz

Oct 23, 2001, 01:01 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Stewart Taggart)

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"...Election officials say one test of the new system will be whether the electronic system results in fewer uncountable ballots than that. Purvis hopes it will, since the computers will remind voters if they fill out voting forms incorrectly. No similar check exists for paper ballots.

In a damning report issued in July, American universities Cal Tech and MIT concluded that approximately 6 percent of American votes cast in last November's U.S. presidential election weren't counted for one reason or another --­ and that was under the simpler "first past the post" system. Under the Hare-Clarke system, voters mark a series of candidate numbers on the ballots. But pencil-marked 4s can sometimes look like 9s, 7s can look like 1s and 5s resemble 6s, Purvis says. Electronic voting should reduce some of those mistakes.

In the 1998 ACT election, for instance, a routine recount of 80,000 ballots was ordered in one race in which the winner led by three votes. A recount later handed the contest to the loser, electing him by five votes after it was determined preferences were misread in a previous vote count.

'People's handwriting was hard to decipher in a number of cases, but it took us 22 days to get this result,' Ms. Purvis said. 'If everyone voted by computer in this election, we'd have results in 3-4 hours.'"

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