The recent election results and the associated controversy surrounding the voting process has brought the U.S. voting system into question. The particular issues deal with the continued use of antiquated paper ballots and potentially inaccurate ballot counting machines. It's high time we updated this system and brought it into full ISO 9000 and 6-Sigma compliance. So, where do we start in our attempt to design an improved, error-free, voting system?
The first step in any logical design starts with development of the assumptions. Let's assume that we can believe everything that we've heard from the press:
Composite fibers in paper ballots resist cutting and generate hanging chads
Carbon fiber ballots cannot be punched and result in light dimples only
Erasable markers used to fill in the ballots are too light and/or illegible
Now we can start the design process, but we must keep one aspect of the election process unchanged—for some reason, people in America like the idea that each voter has the right to make their own selection for which candidate they'd like elected. Provision needs to be made for these voters to select their candidate.
In order to avoid confusion regarding which candidate the voter is selecting, each candidate will have his or her picture on the ballot. To vote, you simply cut out your candidate's picture (you end up with a souvenir photo to put on your desk or dresser). The process of cutting out pictures is taught in kindergarten and represents a legal method for candidate selection. A hanging photo (or chad) means that you didn't really want that candidate or his photo and that will not count as a vote.
Any ballots that cannot be scanned by the election machines (because they contain multiple or illegible cutouts or chads) will be loaded into a second counting machine. This machine will review the pertinent voter data profile and correct the ballot. This process is described below (in common terminology to avoid the high cost and debate that would result through prolonged interference from politicians and lawyers).
The voter's birthdate will be scanned to identify his or her astrological sign. Birthdate and age will also be processed to identify their numerology value. The final voter parameter to be recorded is a handwriting sample—to determine left or right slant. By processing these voter parameters through the election software, the final vote will be cast for the election.
This process guarantees that each person who picks up an election ballot will have one, and only one, vote cast in the election. If voters are clear and concise in completing their ballot, that will be counted in the first machine. If their ballot is incomplete or unclear, the second machine will utilize their voter profile to complete it automatically and it will be completed on election day, not after. This identification of the voter's intent will be ascertained scientifically through program analysis of their unique personal characteristics (see below). Election recounts will become a thing of the past!
The only issue now is the bio-engineering development of the scientific election software to assess and assign each voter's profile (astrological sign, numerology, and writing slant) for use by the second machine. Astrological sign and numerology will have equal 33% weighting, and writing slant (being a more personal characteristic) will be weighted 34%. Use of these parameters and their weighting leaves 0.00% uncertainty to the selection of each voter's candidate. With no need to recount votes, the ballots will be recycled and the money raised used to address the real problem with elections here: low voter turnout.
This report is one of a series of occasional columns exploring the not-altogether-serious side of engineering by Ken Foote, a mechanical engineer at GDLS. You can reach Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org or e-mail your comments to us at email@example.com.
The presidential race is declared a statistical dead heat. Election officials will determine the outcome by flipping a coin. If they flip ten coins into the air, what is the probability that the coins will land showing 5 heads and 5 tails?
See answer below.
Source: Adapted from the Fundamentals of Engineering Examination, Eugene L. Boronow, Prentice Hall Press, 1986.