A Better Approach to Elections

 

Our elections are an embarrassing third-world mess.

On top of that, there’s no mechanism to test or improve the accuracy of elections. Nobody’s even talking about improving them.  And every change that gets implemented makes the system more susceptible to fraud.  (Like that wasn’t the whole point.)

The Silicon Valley entrepreneur in me sees every problem as a business opportunity.  I’ve posted twice before about a potential voting machine startup company, first as an application for blockchain technology, and second as a voting system that uses software technology to verify accuracy.

But now I’m thinking that’s the wrong approach.  That the very idea of a “voting machine” is broken.  That the direction of the nation should not be in the hands of a weird mystery machine.

So I’ll present a new suggestion. It would be great if folks could chime in with ideas.

I think the biggest obstacles to a fair election are:

  • Ballot drop boxes. With ballot harvesting and a lack of supervision. And even with security cams, in practice the cams are pointed in the wrong direction.
  • Shipping ballots to a centralized location for tabulation. The high activity creates opportunities for fraud and confusion, the high volume means that the fraud can have a larger effect, ballots can come in from anywhere, and the counting center is always located in a disproportionately high Dem, high crime area.
  • The tabulating machines themselves. It’s not possible to know what the machines are *really* doing, and there are oodles of ways to manipulate their results. On any of the machines. And since billions of dollars go into elections, the incentive and temptation to skew the machines is sky high.

None of this is necessary.

Here’s the idea:

One-day voting, no drop boxes, paper ballots (required for a physical archive).

Once the paper ballots have been scanned, an open-source tabulating software app could run through the image files, interpret the dots, and count the votes very, very quickly.  This would eliminate the tabulating machines.

Multiple independent tabulating apps could be certified and run through the images simultaneously, and their results would have to agree within a tiny margin of error.

The scanned images would be publicly available online for transparency, and to assist in the development and improvement of tabulating software.

The ballot scanning would be performed at the local precinct, using an off-the-shelf scanner. This avoids the central scanning operation. The voter gets a ballot, fills it out, scans it, approves the scan image, and places the ballot in the box.

Almost no humans are involved in the counting process. And no adjudication is necessary.  Maybe just for write-in candidates.

So this is a proposal that gets rid of voting machines, uses regular scanners to scan ballots at the local precinct, and the tabulation process can be an open book online.  It’s fully transparent, involves much less labor, uses familiar off-the-shelf hardware, and anybody can run a recount any time on the publicly available ballot images.

An added point that was brought up in the comments:

How do you get it adopted?

Well, I haven’t seen anybody propose a viable alternative other than hand counting (which would still be open to fraud).  So this stands as a workable example.

You’d have to start with the states that are amenable to it; states that actually want proper elections.

Thoughts?

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  1. Gary Robbins Member
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    I would add two ideas.  After the 2000 election debacle, Florida got its act together and reformed all of its laws.  Florida knows who won with a couple of hours of the polls closing.  I suggest that every state hire one of the county election officials from Florida.  Better yet, replace your election laws with Florida’s!

    • #1
  2. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Our elections are the standard of the world.  Producing mostly reliable results for the party in power.  

    • #2
  3. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Both Britain and Canada have election using  paper and pens election systems.

    Yes of course fraud in elections can still happen. In pre-machinery elections in Chicago, there were always ballot boxes that went missing from polling place stations. Which mysteriously would contain 98% R ballots.

    But the missing ballot boxes cannot  ever steal an election in the large scale, secretive and  invisible manner that computer code programs can.

    Hewitt-Pulitzer has stated that the only way to know if there is a code inside a program that flips votes due to a programmed algorithm would be  to have a witness watching the machine in real time. Which cannot happen ever for security reasons.

    • #3
  4. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    I like in-person, one day voting with purple ink-dipped fingers to prevent multiple visits to different polling places. Military gets an exception. If you’re otherwise incapacitated or out of town on election day, oh well. Too bad. You must have more important things going on than voting. 

    For the counting, I’ll go with noD’s suggestions. 

    • #4
  5. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    24 Hours across the nation, all polls close at the same time. Something like 8pm-8pm EST. National Holiday to boot. 

     

    • #5
  6. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    Both Britain and Canada have election using paper and pens election systems.

    Look at similar countries’ election systems and pick the one that seems to work best.

    • #6
  7. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Don, thank you. I was one of those critical of your earlier proposal, on the grounds that the technological complexity of a blockchain solution would necessarily decrease public confidence in the outcome. What you are proposing now is exactly in line with what I think makes sense.

    Ergo, it must be brilliant. ;)

    I’d add a requirement for an official photographic ID.

    Oh, and some kind of absentee balloting would be required for those who can not be physically present. Keep it proctored, limited, and within a very few days leading up to the election (safe, legal, and rare).

    Absolutely end mail-in ballots and ballot harvesting. One person, one vote in person.

    Fantasy: Make the process of voting no easier nor more difficult than the process for purchasing a gun.

    • #7
  8. Gary Robbins Member
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    Zafar (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    Both Britain and Canada have election using paper and pens election systems.

    Look at similar countries’ election systems and pick the one that seems to work best.

    Florida.

    • #8
  9. E. Kent Golding Member
    E. Kent Golding
    @EKentGolding

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Our elections are the standard of the world. Producing mostly reliable results for the party in power.

    Not as effective as Soviet or Chinese elections, but close.

    • #9
  10. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I would add two ideas. After the 2000 election debacle, Florida got its act together and reformed all of its laws. Florida knows who won with a couple of hours of the polls closing. I suggest that every state hire one of the county election officials from Florida. Better yet, replace your election laws with Florida’s!

    Only recently.  The 2018 Florida gubernatorial election had Ron DeSantis squeak ahead of corrupt, drug addicted, male escort customer, and felon Andrew Gillum by a mere 0.4% of the vote.

    The changes are even a meme now:

     

    And yes, those are highly recommended.

    But they have little to do with the voting machines.

    • #10
  11. Gary Robbins Member
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    Duplicate.

    • #11
  12. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    namlliT noD: there’s no mechanism to test or improve the accuracy of elections. Nobody’s even talking about improving them.  

    Wrong.  Lots of people are talking about improving them. 

    But they’ve all been canceled, so you don’t hear them.  Because improved election integrity probably would have led to the Republican president’s reelection.   So if you’re in favor of improved election integrity, that means you’re evil.  Why should we listen to evil people?  And that’s it. 

    So we’re stuck with corrupt elections. 

    They may seem distasteful, but at least they produce results that are not evil (meaning not Republican).  It’s worth it.  Really. 

    Surely you understand.  Or are you evil? 

    • #12
  13. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Don, thank you. I was one of those critical of your earlier proposal, on the grounds that the technological complexity of a blockchain solution would necessarily decrease public confidence in the outcome. What you are proposing now is exactly in line with what I think makes sense.

    Ergo, it must be brilliant. ;)

    Certainly a good point.

    We’ve sort of been conditioned to believe that machines are required, and I was thinking of building a better mousetrap; a provably good machine.

    But no, machines aren’t required.  Machines just open up the possibilities of oodles of mechanisms of election fraud.

    • #13
  14. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Don, thank you. I was one of those critical of your earlier proposal, on the grounds that the technological complexity of a blockchain solution would necessarily decrease public confidence in the outcome. What you are proposing now is exactly in line with what I think makes sense.

    Ergo, it must be brilliant. ;)

    Certainly a good point.

    We’ve sort of been conditioned to believe that machines are required, and I was thinking of building a better mousetrap; a provably good machine.

    But no, machines aren’t required. Machines just open up the possibilities of oodles of mechanisms of election fraud.

    As the unfolding FTX debacle shows (and as Theranos showed before that), technology has a way of lulling willful [I really meant “willing” — those willing to be lulled] people into complacency. There will be those who assume that no sufficiently advanced voting system can possibly be corrupted — and those (and probably more, and I’m among them) who will believe that no such system can be trusted.

    • #14
  15. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    Paying Attention Yet?

    But, But NamiliT………..  the wrong people would get elected then and we  can’t have that. OMG!

    And we just have to have these newfangled machines  to vote in because… well .. um , because um, they are just so much more efficient  than the old days- like what  used to take just a few  hours and could be easily audited can now take days or weeks even – (yea! all the better for “re- adjudicating “)…. and the election system  has become pretty well audit proof.  So there.  Just the way   we like it!

    • #15
  16. Postmodern Hoplite Coolidge
    Postmodern Hoplite
    @PostmodernHoplite

    I “liked” @dontillman’s OP, and recommend it for promotion to the Main Feed. It is a good example of the “civil discussion” Ricochet ought to be better known for.

    That being said, much as I agree with the sentiments (I’m closest in line with @westernchauvinist on this issue), let’s be brutally honest: nothing is going to change. The state and local electoral power bases like how the recent elections came out, and they’re not going to change them? Why should they; they won!

    Nothing is going to change between now and 2024, and likely won’t change until the Progressives lose a couple of elections they thought they were going to win. How does that happen? The GOP gets serious about using the same tactics and techniques. Ballot harvesting and mass mail-in vote operations? Do it. Is it unethical and immoral? Yes. But as long as the courts and judges rule that it is legal, it will continue to be the deciding factor in close races.

    I wish this wasn’t the case, but it is. My wishing it were otherwise does no good. Until the GOP decides to fight back, it will keep losing.

    • #16
  17. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):

    I “liked” @ dontillman’s OP, and recommend it for promotion to the Main Feed. It is a good example of the “civil discussion” Ricochet ought to be better known for.

    That being said, much as I agree with the sentiments (I’m closest in line with @ westernchauvinist on this issue), let’s be brutally honest: nothing is going to change. The state and local electoral power bases like how the recent elections came out, and they’re not going to change them? Why should they; they won!

    Nothing is going to change between now and 2024, and likely won’t change until the Progressives lose a couple of elections they thought they were going to win. How does that happen? The GOP gets serious about using the same tactics and techniques. Ballot harvesting and mass mail-in vote operations? Do it. Is it unethical and immoral? Yes. But as long as the courts and judges rule that it is legal, it will continue to be the deciding factor in close races.

    I wish this wasn’t the case, but it is. My wishing it were otherwise does no good. Until the GOP decides to fight back, it will keep losing.

    They will never fight back against anyone but their own base.

    • #17
  18. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):
    Ballot harvesting and mass mail-in vote operations? Do it. Is it unethical and immoral? Yes. But as long as the courts and judges rule that it is legal, it will continue to be the deciding factor in close races.

    I would be a fair amount of money that if Republicans were to engage in such activities, they would be called voter fraud.

    Just guessing…

    • #18
  19. Postmodern Hoplite Coolidge
    Postmodern Hoplite
    @PostmodernHoplite

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):
    Ballot harvesting and mass mail-in vote operations? Do it. Is it unethical and immoral? Yes. But as long as the courts and judges rule that it is legal, it will continue to be the deciding factor in close races.

    I would be a fair amount of money that if Republicans were to engage in such activities, they would be called voter fraud.

    Just guessing…

    Yes, indeed. Do it anyway, and drag the whole sordid mess back into the courts. Even if the “Progressive” judges rule for the Democrats and against the Republicans, it will at least be out in the sunlight.

    • #19
  20. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser
    @Buckpasser

    A nice post with good recommendations.  I’m afraid we’re just spiting (or something) in the wind.

    • #20
  21. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):
    That being said, much as I agree with the sentiments (I’m closest in line with @westernchauvinist on this issue), let’s be brutally honest: nothing is going to change. The state and local electoral power bases like how the recent elections came out, and they’re not going to change them? Why should they; they won!

    Certainly.

    But I haven’t seen anybody propose a viable alternative other than hand counting (which would still be open to fraud).

    This is a proposal that is easy to implement, fully transparent, involves much less labor, uses off-the-shelf hardware, open source software, and anybody can run a recount any time on the publicly available ballot images.

    But that’s an important point, how do you get it adopted?  Easy, start with the states that are amenable to it; states that don’t want to use Dominion machines and actually want proper elections.

    • #21
  22. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Buckpasser (View Comment):

    A nice post with good recommendations. I’m afraid we’re just spiting (or something) in the wind.

    Although I’m not a huge fan of Wm. F. Buckley, he sometimes said good things, such as:

    “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”

    • #22
  23. The Cloaked Gaijin Member
    The Cloaked Gaijin
    @TheCloakedGaijin

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    Both Britain and Canada have election using paper and pens election systems.

    That’s what I have always used.  I think that’s what most states which haven’t had a history of corruption have almost always used.

    Mail-in-voting is a scam:  I suppose if it is least than 1% of the vote that it might be OK.  Military people who are stationed overseas should be able to vote, but I don’t really have a lot of sympathy for most people.  The world is go to collapse because you are too lazy or can never be bothered to be at home?

    Mail-in-vote-states are really a scam:  How will those places ever elect a Republican or non-Democrat in a statewide election unless it is a very liberal Republican like the governor of Vermont?  Which ones are they now? 

    In 1998, “Oregon established vote-by-mail as the standard mechanism for voting…”

    “In 2011, the Washington legislature passed a law requiring all counties to conduct vote-by-mail elections.”

    “In 2013, Colorado began holding all elections by mail.”

    “In 2014, Utah started allowing (this) with all counties doing so in 2020.”

    In 2020 “Hawaii instituted All-Vote-by-Mail for all elections…”

    “On May 18, 2021, the Vermont legislature passed a bill requiring general elections to be all vote-by-mail.”

    “On June 2, 2021, (Nevada) Governor Sisolak signed a law making all vote-by-mail permanent…”

    “As of 2022, California mails every registered voter a ballot before the elections.”

    Drop boxes!!!  We have ALWAYS had drop boxes.  They are called mail boxes.  Americans should be destroying drop boxes the way East Europeans destroyed statues of Marx and Lenin over 30 years ago.

    California and their 1000 different languages voting ballot scheme.  Who would live in such a crazy state?  That place will NEVER be fixed.

    • #23
  24. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):
    Ballot harvesting and mass mail-in vote operations? Do it. Is it unethical and immoral? Yes. But as long as the courts and judges rule that it is legal, it will continue to be the deciding factor in close races.

    I would be a fair amount of money that if Republicans were to engage in such activities, they would be called voter fraud.

    Just guessing…

    In my first run for office I assisted 285 residents of the city council district to register to vote.  I probably deserved some citizenship award.  What I got instead was “legal” and illegal harassment, vandalized home and cars, and threats made to my employer.  

    I say know what the rules are.  Play within the rules.  Prepare for a counter attack.  

    • #24
  25. The Cloaked Gaijin Member
    The Cloaked Gaijin
    @TheCloakedGaijin

    P.S.  Ranked-choice-voting is going to be the new Leftist scheme to destroy American elections.

    • #25
  26. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Elections with several hundred million eligible voters simply cannot be centralized, not just because of fraud, it doesn’t take much fraud to turn an election, we just saw that, but because the top of anything massive corrupts in it’s own way.  Those with power serve their own interests and with a population and wealth as great as exists in the US that’s too massive to be sensibly and purposely organized by the top.  Elections are better than the alternatives, but they are by nature rotten and the more centralized and the larger the country, the worse it must be.  We lost bottom up  in the early 2oth century.  Even a giant country could, indeed, must be bottom up, but we’ll probably never get back there.  That doesn’t mean more corruption, it means decay and eventual collapse as the top pulls power and wealth to itself and narrows until it loses control, disintegrates and folks get to start over.   It may happen so quickly some will still remember and, presumably, young people will still read.

    • #26
  27. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    I Walton (View Comment):
    Elections with several hundred million eligible voters simply cannot be centralized, not just because of fraud, it doesn’t take much fraud to turn an election, we just saw that, but because the top of anything massive corrupts in it’s own way.

    Indeed.

    And the Constitutional leaves it to the states to implement elections.

    • #27
  28. kidCoder Member
    kidCoder
    @kidCoder

    The Cloaked Gaijin (View Comment):

    P.S. Ranked-choice-voting is going to be the new Leftist scheme to destroy American elections.

    Done in a trustable way, where it’s transparent and quickly executed, RCV gives us a chance at an actual third party win.

    • #28
  29. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    kidCoder (View Comment):

    The Cloaked Gaijin (View Comment):

    P.S. Ranked-choice-voting is going to be the new Leftist scheme to destroy American elections.

    Done in a trustable way, where it’s transparent and quickly executed, RCV gives us a chance at an actual third party win.

    Bad ideas.  Both.

    Third parties are inherently unstable.  The third party has the incentive to split off the votes from the party with the more popular positions, and the result is that the party with the unpopular positions wins.

    Similarly, with Ranked Choice Voting you average up the popular positions at the cost of electing the less popular, and perhaps less trusted or less capable, candidate to implant them.

    Yick.

    • #29
  30. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    Since we got you here…

    Have there been any other proposals of note for elections?  I haven’t heard of any.

    It seems to me that the use of any modern voting machine that scans and tabulates the votes without any error checks or assurances violates chain of custody.

    • #30
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