Archive for the 'voting' Category

The importance of AV


As you may know here in the UK we’re about to have a referendum to change the way we vote for our elected MPs. It means I have something important to talk about.


Kerning is the “negative space” between a pair of letters. Where the shapes of two adjacent letterforms complement each other, there is a danger of leaving too large a space between them if you space out the letters too rigidly. In the logo above, the A and the V in the first line have been brought closer together compared to the second line. I hope you can appreciate that “Yes to AV” has the better letter-spacing. And if you can’t, GET OFF MY BLOG!

This is the launch of the “Yes to AV; No to A V” campaign. I even have a logo with totally web 2.0 compliant round corners in a shade that isn’t blue.

Any half decent package that allows you to type in text should allow you to adjust the kerning, the spacing between the letters. In Mac OS X the feature has been built into the standard text widget, and hence incorporated into every application that plays nicely, since the dawn of time. I did the graphic in Inkscape which, being an X11 app, does not play nicely, but it didn’t matter. Most of the time you don’t need to hand kern the spacing between individual letters, because the font files that describe the letterforms also come with kerning tables, to adjust the spacing between pairs of letters that comonly need attention. “AV” is not as common as “Ye” or “Wo” but i’d still expect it to be kerned by the font software.

And so it is. It turns out that in my installation of Inkscape I have two Times fonts that I can choose in the pull-down font selector thingy. One called Times New Roman, one called Times.

So in making my “Yes to AV; No to A V” logo, all I had to do was choose Times New Roman for the “Yes to AV” line, and choose Times for the “No to A V” line. I expect Times New Roman is the system font exposed as an X11 font, and Times is some craptastic knockoff supplied with Inkscape that obviously has second-rate kerning tables. Thanks for that.

This article was of course inspired by the leader in The Observer (you will recall the dark ages of the 20th century when people read the news in print; The Observer is a notable Sunday publication from that era):

Weird. The appalling typography almost distracted me from reading the article (another win for that new-fangled web technology). Even weirder: they get their typography sorted on the opposite page.

So the message is clear: “Yes to AV; No to A V”.

SBCL used in e-counting


Page 21 of ORG’s full report on their observations of the 2007 elections (held for various purposes across the UK) says that SBCL was used for e-Counting in South Bucks. That’s pretty much the only positive thing I’ve found so far. The report just makes me want to weep.

Of course the usual suspects also appear: Windows Server 2003, .Net 2.0, Oracle, Red Hat, Ubuntu (twice!), Apache, Tomcat, Ruby on Rails, Firefox 2.0, Sun JRE.

Why electronic counting failed


All I’ve read so far is the BBC article about how the pilot at 5 councils of electronic counting has failed. That and some of the more tedious leglislation on the matter.

So having not found out much yet I predict the following will turn out to be key factors in the failure of the electronic counting pilot:

Secret software.
MS Access.
Administrator Privileges.
Power cycling.
Final hardware not specified (specification of hardware changed throughout project life-cycle).
No full-scale tests. That is, no test using a similar number of votes as would be expected on election night.
No test performed using the final hardware and software at the site where counting was to be done using real counting staff (until the real thing on election night, naturally).
Nobody opened an image-processing textbook (see secret software).
Results of pre-election night tests suppressed.
Requirements for error rates not specified numerically (in quantifiable terms).
At least one class of errors (in categorising votes) not considered.
Requirements on speed of processing not specified numerically.
Requirements on number of votes presented for adjudication (compared to votes adjudicated in a hand count) not specified.
Changing the design of the ballot paper so that electronic voting would be “easier” meant that electronic counting systems could not be tested with the actual voting slips from previous elections.
Inadequate staff training (see power cycling).
Concurrency problems (for example, presenting the same image to two different adjudicators, then screwing up the count database).

Vote Different


It turns out that there are 12 “electoral modernisation pilots”. Sorry for the crappy image linked to a PDF. Getting this table from NeoOffice to my blog was unreasonably annoying.

Advance is a scheme where voters can vote up to 2 weeks (generally) before the election. In all these schemes a signature will be required before advance voting.

Signature is a scheme where all voters (not just advance voters) will be required to provide a signature before voting.

Scanning means that votes will be counted by electronic scanning machines. Y denotes a scheme using “commerically available” scanning hardware. X presumably denotes a scheme using scanning hardware custom-built by the Mayor’s nephew in his shed.

Internet denotes a scheme of advance voting using the internet.

Telephone denotes a scheme of advance voting using the telephone.

Central denotes the provision of a centrally provided facility (or facilities) at which voters can vote regardless of their ward or parish.

That single table is about the same amount of information in this 5 page PDF from the DCA found on this page. Is the DCA’s performance measured in Kilogrammes or something?