Mimsy Were the Borogoves

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

Write your rep on ballot security and open elections

Jerry Stratton, March 3, 2021

Our voting system is hopeless archaic. Literally so. The techniques we use to validate elections predate every basic rule of auditing learned in the financial industries since the dawn of the industrial age. And when a ballot count fails even that ridiculously low barrier, nothing happens. We need to update our election procedures to use modern auditing techniques, in a self-auditing manner. If we can also update our elections to use simple, reliable technological innovations that are older than our youngest voters, that’s a bonus.

In states where we know elections are corrupted already, it’s going to be difficult. But we should try. It is especially important that we update our procedures in states where we think elections are mostly trustworthy.

If you trust your state’s election procedures, now is the best time to ask for better security and more openness. By the time you don’t trust your state’s election procedures, it’s probably too late.

But there are also states where a lot of voters don’t trust their elections, but their representatives are nominally in support of secure elections. There’s a chance those are fixable, too.

I’m not going to say, “try to change it anyway, what can it hurt?” because we’ve passed that stage: there is a chance it will hurt, that fighting for open and secure elections will make you a target. Whether the reward—an America where everyone’s vote counts, where legal votes are not drowned out by fraud—is worth the risk is up to you.

This is what I sent to my Texas reps. You will want, of course, to highlight where your own state’s election procedures need updating and strengthening; and you may well disagree with me both on what I put in and what I left out.

Or throw it out completely and write your own, using what you know about your state’s election procedures. But one way or another, secure, self-auditing elections are critical to a democracy. Not just for the election itself but for people’s trust that their voice makes a difference, that their vote makes a difference. Without that trust, democracy falls apart.

Fighting open elections, fighting secure elections, fighting basic validation procedures, can only serve to erode trust in the ballot box. Denying access to the data necessary to validate an election doesn’t just erode trust, it makes it obvious that no trust is deserved.

What happens when that trust is gone is something none of us want.

Dear representative:

Texas should be a model of secure, open, and self-auditing elections. One of the most basic verifications all institutions do is compare assets deposited vs. assets accumulated throughout their systems, automatically generating warnings on any discrepancy. We should do at least as well counting votes. There should be separate counts—by separate counters—of in-person voters, absentee voters, and ballots, compared against vote counts, for each machine, precinct, and county. Copies of ballots made by machines must be kept and made public for voters and candidates to examine. Originals must be kept for verification against any discrepancy.

One election day. Absentee ballots limited to those who cannot vote in person. The deadline for receiving absentee ballots should be well before election day, with a full chain of custody from voter to counter. It should be easy for any voter to verify that their vote has been received.

It’s great that Texas requires voter registration be completed well before an election. We also need to require a much better job of hardening our voter rolls against fraud. Voter rolls should be regularly reset and randomly tested to ensure everyone listed as a voter is eligible.

We must make better use of simple modern technology. Live, archived video of vote-counting will alleviate concerns about some fraud. Provisional ballots should be accompanied by a photo taken by the poll worker of the person submitting the ballot. Every voter should be provided something like a one-way hash, tied to their ballot, in case a deep recount is required.

Election data, from ballots to videos to photos, should be open-sourced for public auditing. The data should be automatically archived for public review. Any candidate or voter who wants to validate a Texas election should have the data to do so without having to fight local officials.

In response to Bean counting and ballot counting: We treat money far more seriously than we treat the future of our country.