FSem 132
Course Description

Fall, 2015

How should we elect our President and other government officials? Is our method of election fair to all voters? What is the best way to cast and record our votes?

This course will survey different methods of conducting elections and voting. This will give us tools to assess the fairness of our election methods in this country and how we might make policy decisions related to elections and voting. These policies concern both the ways of casting our votes – voting technology – and the election methods (Electoral College, plurality versus run-off and other election methods).

One part of the course will compare different ways of electing candidates and the mathematical theory behind these methods. Methods to be considered include plurality (candidate with the most votes wins), different run-off methods, and other methods. It will also look at the two-stage process for United States Presidential elections where in the second stage states vote using a weighted vote (the electoral college). Students will be expected to understand the theoretical results and to apply them to specific situations.

 The second part of the course will consider different ways that votes can be cast. This will include the history of different methods of voting and their vulnerability to fraud. This will lead up to current debates about voting technology – how effective are different modern systems, such as electronically scanned paper ballots and direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines, for accurately and securely recording votes and protecting against voting fraud. How can we systematically compare and weigh the risks associated different voting methods? We will also consider issues about voter eligibility. How should databases be used to verify/purge voter registration roles? What documentation should be required for voter registration and in order to vote on election day?

Instructor:            Chris Nevison, Computer Science
Office Hours:
Class: M, W, F 12:20-1:10

Chaotic Elections, Donald Saari
The History and Politics of Voting, Roy G. Saltman
The Voting Wars, Richard L. Hasen
Voting Technology, Herrnson, Niemi, Hanmer, Bederson, Conrad, and Traugott
Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?, Dougls Jones & Barbara Simons

Recommended: A Writer's Reference by Diane Hacker

other readings from handouts or web pages

Midterm exam                                                 20%
laboratory exercises                                         20%
Paper                                                              20%
Final group project/presenation                        20%
Reading quizzes                                               20%


There will be regular online quizzes on the readings. These will be due before the class in which the reading in to be discussed.

Laboratory exercises

Throughout the semester, there will be two laboratory exercises. These exercises will involve working with the concepts introduced in class. Some of the work will be collecting data outside class, some of the work will be done in class.

Weekly Syllabus