Right. The GEMS theory is that we would add any reasonable layout options to handle whatever cases we came across. GEMS also allows movement of races outside of the column paradigm (by quarter inch), which helps a lot. This falls down in the face of this "Grid Layout" however since it doesn't look (to me) like any reasonable race options are going to lay out the ballot automatically.
Right again. From Frank's email it looks like many of the New England states want this, and Don Vopalenski has put the requirement on the table.
I thought about this, and should have brought it up in the original mail. I think the GEMS rotation design is sound (in fact I think it is a major unique feature of GEMS) and is outside the manual layout issue. In GEMS, rotation is independent of layout. This would remain the case for manual layout. We may *also* need to support manual rotation, but that would entail entering in the rotation number for the race for a given baseunit-ballot. Manual layout would be done using "rotation 0" (like it is done, albeit with less flexibility, now).
I think the devil is in the details here. How, exactly, are candidates "moved within the race rectangle"? What happens to the candidates after they have been moved if the race rectangle is resized? This is currently well defined in GEMS, but would not be if we allow the candidates to move freely.
Another possibility is to just attach "tags" to the ovals (ie the candidate label) and allow them to be freely dragged around the a card, independent of race boxes. The ballots would not be layed out and then adjusted, but rather positioned manually from the start. I think this better matches the fact that the artwork is being typeset manually (and independently) by the printer. It sidesteps the "overlapping race box" issue you bring up also. I have not really thought through all the implications of this solution however.
Does anyone know how ES&S does this? I get the impression that they and these "SAT Test" scanning systems can enter oval positions based on the typeset artwork, but I don't know the details (and can't guess either).