Now That's Lousy Software Design:

The Daily Progress (Charlottesville) reports:

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jim Webb of Falls Church is one of several candidates whose full names have been cut off the final page of the electronic ballot voters will use this year in Charlottesville, Falls Church and Alexandria.

Election officials said it's possible that some confusion may result when voters reach the summary page of the ballot but stressed that it will not cause votes to be cast incorrectly and that Webb's full name appears on the ballot's first page, where voters choose for whom they vote.

A conference call among election officials in Richmond, Charlottesville and Northern Virginia worked out uniform language that will be posted on signs in every affected polling station, telling voters about the problem.

Webb's name on the summary page will be listed only as "James H. 'Jim'" and Republican U.S. Sen. George Allen's party affiliation also will not appear on the summary page in the three cities using Hart InterCivic electronic voting machines....

On top of that, the bug has been known for some time: "[T]he city has used the same machines in 11 elections since purchasing them in 2002," and various candidates' names have been truncated, including Webb's in the June primary. Not a glitch that will affect that many votes, I suspect, but still pretty embarrassing and needless.

WHOI Jacket:
Simply unacceptable...
10.25.2006 3:43pm
PaulV (mail):
Remember this localities are democrat strongholds. Does that explain the incompetence?
10.25.2006 4:07pm
Arbusto Spectrum:
Not good to truncate Webb's name, though probably not a capital offense.

For a while, though, I have thought that it would be great to prohibit party affiliations from being listed alongside candidates' names on ballots. It might force voters to actually learn something about the candidates for whom they vote and their abilities to advocate specific policy positions, as opposed to blindly supporting a given political party.

Bias disclaimer -- I am an Independent.
10.25.2006 4:08pm
Where the heck do they get James H. Jim for an abbreviation. How about "James Webb" or "Jim Webb". It is the same or less number of spaces.

Truly dumbfounding.
10.25.2006 4:10pm
U.Va. 2L (mail):
Makes me glad I voted absentee in Ohio.
10.25.2006 4:19pm
Bitter (mail) (www):
As they explained on the local news this morning, it's due to designers trying to make the font very large for those with visual problems. Rather than making a normal summary and then offering larger text versions for those who request it, I guess they thought one would cover it.
10.25.2006 4:19pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Angus: From "James H. 'Jim' | Webb", truncated at the bar character. They're not doing anything complicated, it's just falling off the screen.
10.25.2006 4:37pm
TJIT (mail):

You said,

"Remember this localities are democrat strongholds. Does that explain the incompetence?"

Nope, it sure doesn't.
10.25.2006 4:39pm
Anon. E. Mouse:
"That's not a bug, that's a feature"

--the coder's mantra.
10.25.2006 4:56pm
Tennessean (mail):
I'm sure this was because, as noted above, they wanted to make sure the font was readable, but this seems almost laughably incompetent. It isn't even like Mr. Webb has a particularly long name. Surely with all the money thrown at these things, they can figure out a system that involves large fonts as well as the complete names? Maybe something as outlandish as a wider screen or *gasp* word-wrapping?

Perhaps I should throw some Visual BASIC together and make me some money here...

(PS - Just as "Analytical Mathematics" led to almost unbelievable comedy on my intermediate school report card because of a related abbreviation dilemma, how long until some enterprising cut-up figures out a good name to get on the ballot as a vulgarity?)
10.25.2006 5:20pm
a reader:
"Not a glitch that will affect that many votes, I suspect. . . ."

Really? Jeez. My gut is that it will affect a bunch. At least in Palm Beach they had the guy's name on it right. And we know how that turned out.

This could be pretty ugly situation if Webb loses close.
10.25.2006 5:30pm
Realist Liberal:
Arbusto Spectrum~
I agree with you whole heartedly and I'm not an Independent (I'm a Democrat). It would be nice for people to actually learn something about issues before voting, then the effectiveness of attack ads (whether on candidates or propositions) would plummet.
10.25.2006 5:57pm
Jack S. (mail) (www):
Are they using DOS 4.01 or something? I'm surprised spaces were allowed between the candidates first and last names.
10.25.2006 6:20pm
Appellate Attorney:
Where the heck do they get James H. Jim for an abbreviation. How about "James Webb" or "Jim Webb". It is the same or less number of spaces. Truly dumbfounding.

It's almost certain that "James H. 'Jim' Webb" submitted his name this way on the official candidate form. Political consultants have known for a long time that this gimmick tends to produce extra votes among the undecided who want to vote in a particular race but don't know or recall much about the candidates. In such cases nicknames as written above attract extra votes (sometimes one, two, or more percent of the total) that can supply the margin of victory in a close race. To be sure, this effect is less pronounced in up-ballot races such as those for U.S. Senator, but it is real.

If Jim Webb defeats George Allen by less than one percent next month, I'm confident this old trick will have provided the margin of victory.
10.25.2006 7:15pm
pete (mail) (www):
As someone who just voted yesterday I am very thankful that they identify candidates by party. I had over fifty different races to vote for yesterday with some having as many as six candidates. How many hundreds of candidates should I have to learn about each election to make a decision? I do not vote straight party, but it is helpful to know at least what general politcal beliefs each nominee has without spending countless hours trying to learn.

We could just switch back to paper and pencil ballots and solve the whole mess.
10.25.2006 7:43pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
None dare call it conspiracy.
10.25.2006 9:05pm
Kevin Murphy:
As an engineer with over 30 years experience designing and building embedded communications and transactions sytems such as this, I just gotta say this shouldn't be that hard. It's embarrassing actually.

Although in all fairness to the engineers involved, I'm willing to bet that a lot of the problem is that the bureaucrats micro-managed the design.
10.26.2006 2:46am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Mindboggling. I don't understand why the Dems aren't seeking an injunction. (Oh, wait, because they're Dems. Right.)

Paper ballots -- the technology of the future!
10.26.2006 10:01am
Joe Kowalski (mail):
A very interesting article containing a lot of the details of just how to go about hacking an election with the paper-less DRE voting machines is now up at It might just be worth it to have a few enterpising folks to make one Michael "Mickey" A. Mouse get a whole bunch of votes to make a good demonstration of just how screwed up the DRE systems are.
10.26.2006 1:43pm