Thursday, December 13, 2007

NY Attorney Stands Up For Hand-Counting Paper Ballots

Coming right up on tomorrow's filing deadline, NY attorney Andi Novick will be submitting a brief regarding the state's response to Department of Justice pressure to comply with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). New York is the last state not in compliance and the DOJ appears intent on forcing the state to purchase and implement some ridiculous electronic vote counting system or other in time for the November 2008 presidential election. The state, political parties and watchdog groups are all weighing in. Novick's brief, a proposal really, would keep NY's lever machines in place through next November, and it would allow hand-counting paper ballots for the two federal races on that ballot.

I suppose I have been peripherally aware of this situation, and began to learn a little about it before speaking in Commack, NY at the end of August. Here are several articles about the situation:

As I noted at the end of my "teamwork" post last weekend, I was recruited onto Novick's team to apply the hand-count forecast tool (.xls) I built for the Voter Confidence Committee to forecast cost, time and labor needs for hand-counting in 15 NY Counties. Over the past week the forecast tool has done some more evolving. Once Novick files I will make available the workbook showing the NY forecasts. In the meantime, the version that has been publicly available (.xls) for months has been updated to reflect these innovations:
All innovations developed in cooperation with Andy Novick, Rady Ananda, Nancy Tobi, Sally Castleman and Pokey Anderson.

The biggest fundamental difference in this new version is the distillation to the exact number of hours *required* for a four-person team to be able to hand-count an average poll site in the county. The benefit of this is showing very small numbers, in some cases, and also instances where a second team might be considered.

This still computes the number of people needed countywide, but now makes a more accurate computation of their collective pay. Before it was based on an arbitrary user input suggesting how late counting would be allowed to occur. Now the pay is completely prorated to the actual amount of counting time required.

Two new guide calculations have also been added for the sake of creating checks and balances, really a reality check for other numbers in the equation. The first new one is registered voters per poll site, computed by dividing the total number of registered voters by the number of poll sites. The other new guide is the poll site-level voter turnout, derived by dividing the average number of ballots cast per site by the average number of registered voters per site.

Removed from this version: time *allowed* for counting (both hours and seconds), teams required per poll site, and people required per poll site. Instead of quantifying people on a per poll site basis, it is now framed around the exact amount of time counting will require.
As part of Novick's brief, I had to draft a declaration stating my qualifications and specific contributions. I look forward to sharing that soon too. Papers due tomorrow are for the case scheduled to be heard on December 20.

* * *

There was a wonderful confluence of events today as the VCC released this media advisory making public a letter we delivered yesterday to Humboldt Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich. We have waited a long time for her to provide her own forecast assumptions to be plugged into the forecast spreadsheet tool. By renewing our request publicly, we are hoping the media will become determined to know these numbers as well. This is how the community will be able to judge the viability of our proposal for hand-counting all ballots in Humboldt elections. The Registrar has already agreed to return to the Peter B. Collins show a week from tomorrow, December 21, presumably between 5-6pm when Brad Friedman is a regular guest.

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