[E-voting] Any statisticians subscribed? Looking for a tipping point.

Brian O'Byrne bobyrne at statesoft.ie
Thu Sep 8 16:31:48 IST 2005


I accept your point completely, and I'm not suggesting that DRE should 
be considered for any increase in turnout. It is, as you suggest, too 
easy to introduce an unprovable wholesale fraud, rendering the entire 
vote invalid with no way to recover any idea of the voters' intent.

Given that DRE, whether remote or in the polling booth, is entirely 
unacceptable maybe my question is off-topic for this list. However 
since remote voting and other voting channels were mentioned I 
thought it was an interesting question to add.

Are there values for those variables (the increased turnout, the 
reduced accuracy, the skew) that would mean increased turnout with 
lower accuracy would give a better overall result?

Without being trained in statistical analysis my gut tells me that as 
the turnout through the traditional channel decreases the value of 
each additional vote increases, perhaps to the extent that the 
election as a whole would benefit from increasing the number of votes 
even if the accuracy falls.


On Thursday 08 September 2005 16:12, Catherine Ansbro wrote:
> Brian,
> Interesting questions.  You make a very good point.  You are right
> that a relatively small number of skillfully "skewed" votes can
> affect the election results.
> What is more serious is--
> What if you get 70% turnout that gives the honest opinion of 10% of
> the electorate?  I am exaggerating to make a point, but this is the
> risk we face when we give up our right to /directly/ monitor
> counting of all the votes.
> Once you introduce a system that uses centralised computers to
> /count/ the vote, you can swing the whole election in undetectable
> ways.  It becomes irrelevant that not all voters might have used a
> vulnerble /voting/ method, if a vulnerable /counting/ method is
> used.
> This only serves to emphasize the point that you make below.
> Catherine
> Brian O'Byrne wrote:
> >At the risk of being branded a heretic:
> >
> >When writing that previous message I prepared the paragraph:
> >I suggest to you that 40% turnout that gives the honest opinion of
> > 40% of the electorate is more useful than 70% turnout that gives
> > the honest opinion of 40% of the electorate.
> >
> >Now as stated, that rings obviously true, however what if you play
> >with the numbers a bit:
> >I suggest to you that 40% turnout that gives the honest opinion of
> > 39% of the electorate is more useful than 70% turnout that gives
> > the honest opinion of 60% of the electorate.
> >
> >If that so obviously true?
> >
> >Is there a value in increasing turnout at the cost of validity?
> >Lets say that at any election there is a proportion of the
> > electorate that will always vote. Because the system is well
> > designed a high proportion of those votes will be accurate
> > reflections of the voter intent, meaning the proportion of 'good'
> > votes is high.
> >
> >Now add another voting channel with a lower integrity. Some of the
> >people who always vote use this new channel, but many new voters
> > also use it. The overall proportion of 'good' votes reduces but
> > the number of votes increases.
> >
> >Assume first that the 'bad' votes are randomly distributed. Does
> > the reduction in accuracy affect the result?
> >
> >Now assume the 'bad' votes are skewed. How much of a skew is
> > required to affect the result? What is the relationship between
> > the integrity of the vote, the skew in the 'bad' votes and the
> > result?
> >
> >Brian.
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Brian O'Byrne, Statesoft Ltd.
Tel: +353 1 4100 993, +353 86 240 4719

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