Technically Speaking Political Commentary
“You can’t fix what you don’t measure, and you can’t measure what you’re not monitoring.” – Peter Drucker
By Perry Busby
On August 30, while the nation turned its attention to the turbulent coastal waters of the Atlantic and Floridians braced for an “in your face” encounter with Hurricane Dorian, Salon.com released a bombshell report, detailing how Georgia’s 2018 mid-term elections had been plagued by a wide range of irregularities, many of which are considered severe..
According to the report, the state’s House Oversight and Reform Committee received over 15,500 pages of documentation as part of an investigation in the lieutenant governor’s race. The race appeared second on the ballot, right under the hotly contested race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp.
While it is common for voters not to vote in down-ballot races, the 159,000 drop-off in the lieutenant governor’s race was twice as much as other races. To put it in proper perspective, the lieutenant governor’s race received over 80,000 fewer votes than the state school superintendent race.
Among the many issues found was a case where one voting machine in Brian Kemp’s home precinct reported Republicans winning every race, while the other six machines in that precinct showed Democrats winning every race. Not only did the machine show the opposite result, it showed Republicans winning by the same margin by which Democrats won on the other machines. A statistician’s analysis revealed the odds of such an occurrence is close to 1 in 1 million.
A far more egregious and widespread problem was the decline in votes on electronic voting machines in 101 of the state’s 159 counties. Documents showed a decline votes cast on voting machines even though paper absentee ballots totals stayed pretty much the same.
An analysis by data-tracking firm TargetSmart found that the vote drop-off “grew even more extreme in precincts with large African American populations,” the report stated.
“I’ve never seen a drop-off pattern like this, ever,” said TargetSmart data analyst Chris Brill. “As the percentage of the African American vote would get higher, the undervote would also get higher.”
Phillip Stark, a statistician at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a court filing that the undervote rate “strongly suggests that malfunction, misconfiguration, bugs, hacking, or other error or malfeasance caused some DREs [direct recording electronic voting machines, also called touchscreen voting machines] not to record votes in the lieutenant governor’s contest.”
While the report confirms what many have long suspected, its revelation does little more than numb the senses of a populace already overwhelmed by the almost daily display of ineptitude from this current administration. That is unfortunate, because this report justifies the need for communities to audit the integrity and quality of the voice coming from their community, a suggestion that I will continue to advocate for each week in this space.
Many view technology with an understanding that it gives us information we know and don’t know, and it gives it to us faster. I hate to burst your bubble, but that ain’t true. Technology seduces us with its efficiency, and because we delight in the pleasure of its immediacy, we lull ourselves into believing efficiency and accuracy are equivalent.
THEY. ARE. NOT.
Ask any student who has rushed to be the first one to turn in a test, only to learn she/he didn’t get best grade.
The quality of any system is only as good as the scrutiny that is put upon it. The notion that the quality of our election results would improve significantly because technology was making the vote tallying process faster and removing human-prone errors, sounds more like a closing statement from a sales pitch rather than a proven statement.
Establishing an audit team among residents within the community empowers residents because it gives them an increased role in the outcome. Among its many beneficial features: it enables multiple points of oversight of polling place data; it gives residents an opportunity to gather, compare and validate voter data; it allows high risk communities an opportunity to preserve their own data to combat the persistent attempts to undermine their vote totals.
It is highly probable that a large voter turnout will ensure a White House victory for Democrats in 2020. What is even more probable is a claim of vote tampering or voter fraud. A sure way to reduce the risk of these claims is to improve the integrity of the data captured at polling locations.
Finally, building these community collaboratives does not require approval from elected officials, although their cooperation and support are welcomed. It puts power into the hands of the people and makes election officials more accountable to the public they were designated to serve.
If you are interested and want to learn more about the advantages of a citizen-based audit or establishing a citizen-based audit team in your community, email me at email@example.com. Also, if you have feedback or a question, please send them to this email, as well.
As always stay tuned to the Westside Gazette for more information about your vote.