Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Virginia Voting Machines Provide Novel Example of "Long" Names

Some Voting Machines Chop Off Candidates' Names -
"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."

James Webb, at 10 letters and spaces, is about as short a name as you will find. Of course, on the ballot it is supposed to appear as James H. "Jim" Webb (19 lettters spaces and punctuation marks) and does on the page where voters mark their preference for US Senate. The Hart InterCivic system, however, also displays a summary of the voter's choices for review before the vote is tallied. On the summary screen, Webb's name is too long and his last name is omitted.

Fortunately, only three rather small cities - Alexandria and Falls Church in the DC suburbs and Charlottesville my former hometown in the cenral piedmont - are using machines from the Hart company in Austin, Texas which hopes to have this glitch fixed in time for the fall 2007 elections.

You might say they could get rid of candidate's nicknames, but in Virginia that might be even more confusing. I used to know politicians with names like H.D. "Buzz" Dawbarn, A.R. "Pete" Giesen, Raymond R. "Andy" Guest.

And others had rather long names, even without a nickname, like J. Kenneth Robinson and D. French Slaughter, Jr. who represented the seventh district when I lived there. Referring to them on the ballot as J. Kenneth Robi or D. French Slaug might have been a bit confusing even to their friends.

Could you imagine Thomas "Tom" Jefferson showing up on the ballot as Thomas "Tom" Je?


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