Voting Machines Truncating Candidate Names

Charlottesville finds itself in the national spotlight, embarrassingly, after the Washington Post today reported that Jim Webb’s name is too long to appear on our electronic voting equipment. Charlottesville voters will choose between voting for “George Allen” or “James H. ‘Jim’,” something that may leave voters scratching their heads. That’s because the screen on the Hart InterCivic eSlate can’t fit all of the text in Webb’s name. The problem isn’t new — it’s been ongoing since the city first bought the equipment four years ago.

I’ve never been a fan of the eSlates (the scrollwheel interface is clever on an iPod, but ridiculously laborious for the purpose of writing out text, such as write-in vote), or really electronic voting at all, but this seems particularly egregious. It would seem to me that the appropriate measure would be for the State Board of Elections to grant an exception to Charlottesville, with the permission of Jim Webb, to list him simply as “Jim Webb,” but apparently the plan is to leave things as they are and to post signs describing the problem.

Electoral Board member Rick Sincere has weighed in on this, explaining how the problem came to be and what’s being done about it. Look for more on this from Bob Gibson in Wednesday’s Daily Progress.

10/25 Update: “Phred” points out that the problem is on the summary page shown before casting the ballot, not when voters are selecting a candidate, meaning that the problem is inconsistent. I don’t know if that’s better or worse.

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