Volume 92, Issue 80

Thursday, February 18, 1999


Editorial Board 1998-99

Raging against the machine

Editorial Cartoon

Raging against the machine

To err is human, to really "fuck up" something takes a computer.

This is the view of the University Students' Council on the recent student elections after incorrect information and late results were produced by the university's Scantron machine.

Last night at the USC meeting, several individuals pointed part of the blame for the problems on the infamous counting machine which tallied the votes for potential student politicians. They admitted the information provided was incorrect and they had recognized that fact on election night. They also said the data which was calculated was distributed much later than expected. However, the bulk of the blame was redirected towards the Scantron machine.

The USC may have a case. The Scantron machine did fail to work for the purpose it was needed. On a tight deadline and without an immediate alternative, there was little anyone could do except pull their hair and bite their nails.

However, this serious problem has a simple answer for future election officials to take – human labour.

Lock a dozen honest and unpartisan people in a room and make them tally the results by hand. Any half-intelligent person could tally 50 ballots in an hour with care and with considerably better results. A group could take care of 600 ballots in an hour.

By this calculation, it would have taken less than six hours to have the results finished for this year's election. Considering half the votes are cast on the first day of the two-day election period, there is no reason why counting cannot start in the afternoon and have the official winners out to the general public in enough time to catch Leno or Letterman. There is no concern over technological breakdowns with this policy.

The sad fact of the matter is the ballots need to be recounted in the end because no one really trusts the Scantron in the first place. This is not the first time that the mechanical adding machine has created problems with USC elections and will not be the last unless the USC can see the light of day.

What is the worst that could happen from this alternative option – an error could occur. At least in this case, there would be someone directly to blame for the misinformation and not a Scantron scapegoat.

Human labour is not perfect but history has indicated that in the case of the USC elections, it would be a lot more accurate and reliable.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999