|Voting Machine Allocation Takes Aims At Wait Time|
|Nation - Government|
|TS-Si News Service|
|Wednesday, 03 November 2010 02:00|
Cincinnati, OH, USA. Muer Yang, from the University of Cincinnati (UC), spent the last two years developing a quantitative method for allocating voting machines that could significantly reduce the average wait time of voters.
The intent of the simulation is make voting times equal for all voters and make sure no one is disenfranchised.
During the 2004 U.S. presidential elections, some voters waited in lines for more than 10 hours to cast their ballots, and in Ohio, the last vote was cast at 4 a.m., noted Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner in a public report.
Ohio lines in the '06 and '08 elections were still so lengthy that they deterred voters unable to wait that long, said UC College of Business PhD candidate Yang. He wanted to change that. To test his method in a computer-simulation model, he used 2008 presidential election data from Franklin County, Ohio, and found that, under simulations, his allocation method reduced the average voter wait time by 36 percent and specifically reduced queuing times for 23,000 people who had to wait for more than 30 minutes in that election.
Franklin County, Ohio, USA.
With over a million residents, the County has played an important role in many presidential and congressional elections. Franklin is the largest of eight counties in the Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Click here for map. "We seek to provide equity to all voters so that no one particular group of voters is disadvantaged or disenfranchised," Yang said. Election boards traditionally use a simple straight-forward mathematical model to allocate voting machines within a precinct, based on the number of voters and available machines, he said. "And that looks very fair, but they oversimplify the problem."
Muer Yang, PhD candidate, standing in front of a bank of voting machines. His research intention was to find a way to allocate voting machines to polling locations "so that all voters wait approximately equal amounts of time regardless of the precinct in which they happen to vote".
Yang conducts quantitative analysis and operations management research with program director David Kelton, UC associate professor Michael Fry and Ohio State University associate professor Theodore Allen."Their assumptions of those problems are not even close to the real world," he added, "because that model assumes a stationary voter arrival — that voters arrive at the voting station at the same rate, which is not true."
"We use simulation models to consider realistic complications, including variables such as voter arrival time, voter turnout, length of time needed to finish a ballot, peak voting times and machine failures." Those numbers can vary significantly between precincts and the real-world details have a powerful influence on allocation outcomes.
Franklin County's voter-machine allocation method is typical to what is used in many areas of the country, but the Ohio county had several characteristics that made it a prime choice to test: It contained an urban core, suburbs and rural areas, leading to a highly diverse voter population, as well as the potential for significant differences in ballot composition.
As if validating Yang and his professors' test case selection, Secretary of State Brunner issued a report last year stating, "Franklin County voters suffered from one of the most disproportionate allocations of voting machines last November. Race and income may have also factored into the wait, according to some election observers." Last, and just as important, "Ohio, and Franklin County in particular, have been pivotal in recent presidential and congressional elections," Yang said. In August, Time magazine called Ohio "the grand prize of presidential politics."
While conducting the research, the UC team worked closely with Brunner's office, and last fall they were directly involved in providing advice to modify Ohio legislation regarding the allocation of voting machines.
House Bill 260, which comprises sweeping election reform well beyond the issue of voting machines, passed through the House of Representatives, but has not made it through the Senate. Nevertheless, Yang has been excited to see officials take his work seriously.
"The local board of elections was really happy that we could provide them with a new easy-to-use tool that didn't ask them to buy more machines," he said. "Our final goal was to provide them with an impartial, practical tool that could be of significant social importance. And they were glad to see that."
Follow-upMuer Yang has concluded his research and, with his colleagues, has been developing professional publication of the results. Last year, they presented a working paper at the 2009 Winter Simulation Conference.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 November 2010 11:56|