Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Crowd-sourcing vote fraud detection

Jerry Stratton, August 15, 2013

2005 Iraqi voter

Voter ID is in the news again, because North Carolina has just required photo identification to vote in person. I find it crazy that this is even controversial, given how important voting is. As usual, people are suing, claiming that they won’t be able to vote when they already have an id. This has become standard: the lawsuits enter discovery and it turns out they already have a valid id or can easily acquire one.

North Carolina has also shortened the absentee voting period from 17 days to 10 days, eliminated same-day voter registration, and eliminated registering people who aren’t yet eligible to vote in North Carolina but might be some day. Their law did not eliminate the absentee ballot loophole: if you vote absentee, no photo identification is required. But this also means that if you can’t get out of your house to visit the DMV, you aren’t disenfranchised, because you’ll be voting absentee anyway.

I am not a fan of long voting periods or of turning voting into a barely noticeable task. Elections should be events that we want to celebrate, not chores to be gotten out of the way as painlessly as possible.

This means absentee voting should be retained for people who need it, not for people who cannot be bothered to vote in person. There absolutely should be some minimum requirement to plan ahead as you would for any important event. I would go as far as to upgrade those “I voted” stickers to hand stamps. Voting is a celebration of our democracy; we should treat it like one. We have no problem with hand stamps for parties and concerts. We should have no problem using indelible stamps or paint on election day at the ballot booth.

Here in California we use two different ballots. One is a type-directly-into-the-computer ballot, like those machines that kept switching Romney votes to Obama and vice versa in the last election. The other ballot is a simple cardboard sheet where voters fill in ovals next to their choices. There are no confusing facing pages, just one or two sides. The sheet is then scanned into a computer for tabulation and kept in case of a recount.

The latter is a far better choice. Ballots entered directly into a computer are worthless. If fraud or even just programming error takes place, there is no “original copy” to return to. And for crowd-sourcing efforts, paper ballots are vastly preferable. Those scans need to be put online for anyone to recount and/or analyze. If fraud exists at the polling place, analysis of hand-filled ballots should be very helpful.

The photographic signatures that I wrote about earlier need to not be numbered sequentially or given a time-stamp, to keep ballots and people from being matched. Ballots are often numbered sequentially, from what I gather, though in some cases the number is on a tab that is handed to the voter and might not be recorded on the portion of the ballot inserted into the scanner.

How you voted is private and should remain so. That you voted and where you voted is currently public information, and we should leverage that to ensure a transparent and accurate voting process.

In response to You don’t need papers to vote: No, you do not need papers to vote. You just need to walk in and know someone’s name.

  1. <- Voter photo signatures
  2. Stupid voting sucks ->