Over the past few years, there has been some concern about the transparency of the counting process in American elections, especially where votes are cast and counted electronically. For instance, last spring in Waukesha County during the Wisconsin Supreme Court run-off, a last minute correction to a clerical error changed the results of the election. In March of this year, an electronic voting system mistakenly recorded two losing city council candidates in Palm Beach County, Florida as receiving the most votes. On May 3rd the people of Greater London went to the polls to elect a new mayor and local assembly. Voters marked their votes on paper ballots. At 8 am the next morning, poll workers began counting the votes electronically at three different locations across Greater London. The process used to count ballots allowed for a high degree of transparency in the count.
The votes from five of the fourteen assembly constituencies were counted at the Olympia Center in Kensington. At one end of the hall stood the sealed black ballot boxes from each constituency. Poll workers opened the boxes one at a time. Each box contained a Ballot Paper Account stating the number of ballot papers in the ballot box when polls closed the night before. Poll workers then completed a Batch Control Sheet. Poll workers then took the Batch Control Sheet with the ballots in that batch to a computer for registration. The Batch Control Sheet stays with the batch for the whole counting process and contains the counting history of the batch. Soon after registration, ballots in each batch are scanned with the Batch Control Sheet. The machine counts ballots on which the voter’s intent is clear. Those ballots for which the machine cannot record a vote are scanned again. A bar code on the top of each ballot ensures that each ballot can only be counted once, no matter how many times the ballot is scanned.
… American jurisdictions may not be able to implement London’s counting process completely. However, the lesson here is that it is possible to count hundreds of thousands of ballots quickly using a transparent process with a paper trail. Compared to the UK, the counting process of American elections is opaque. In most jurisdictions in the United States, the public cannot see what happens to their votes after the polls close. The counting process for American elections can be, and must be, more transparent.
Full Article: E-Counting the London Mayoral and Assembly Elections.