Wednesday, October 25, 2006

eVoting Let Down

The WaPo reports today on an electronic-voting-machine failure affecting Charlottesville, Alexandria, and Falls Church:

U.S. Senate candidate James Webb's last name has been cut off on part of the electronic ballot used by voters in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville because of a computer glitch that also affects other candidates with long names, city officials said yesterday.

The Post report doesn't suggest any malicious intent—the error is the result of an increase in text size, presumably designed to help people vote more easily. But this is just the sort of thing that a close election doesn't need: the appearance of impropriety, even in the absence actual malfeasance. And I presume that our election officials are up-in-arms about the mix-up.

Well, sort of. Rick Sincere, the current Secretary of the Electoral Board in Charlottesville blogs the controversy, explaining that a software fix is available but is stuck in state certification (and informing me, to my delight, that a permanent paper-trail fix is on the way, too; huzzah for that). But Rick also says:

It is the candidate, not the State Board of Elections or the local Electoral Board, who chooses how his name appears on the ballot. If Jim Webb had chosen to have his name appear on the ballot as "James Webb" or "Jim Webb," this would not be an issue.

Hm, methinks that bar is set a wee bit high, Rick. If a particular jurisdiction has limited character space available—even if it's just on the summary page, as in this case—the burden falls on the officials of that jurisdiction to inform each candidate, lest the candidate exceed the available space.

That's the funny thing about bucks. They so rarely stop anywhere. But then, I have an especially long last name, so maybe I'm just touchy. Regardless: extremely disappointing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wait until the Republicans run a candidate named "Juan Fernando Gomez de la Torre". This issue should eventually drive everyone insane.

The Dems are trying to make sure that voters are clearly informed, and that the most effective, realistic work-around is in place. Check out for more discussion of this issue.

25/10/06 1:09 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Is it just me, or is James Webb a rather short name?

25/10/06 2:30 PM  
Blogger Stanley said...

Linda: I was actually thinking about hispanic names—which often include two surnames—when I wrote this post. Interesting website, thanks.

Andrea: nope, it's not just you. Thing is, Webb requested to be listed as James H. "Jim" Webb, still pretty short in my book, but too long for a certain part of the ballot (the confirmation screen at the end).

25/10/06 3:49 PM  

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