Technically Speaking Political Commentary
By Perry Busby
“Every defeat, every heart-break, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.” – Malcolm X (from the speech “Democracy is Hypocrisy”)
Democracy cannot exist apart from voting. The voting process is the sine qua non, the indispensable or essential part in determining the will of the majority. For something that is so vital to our way of governance, we are woefully ignorant of its inner workings.
Many of us still view our voting process with an Industrial Age mindset, where humans are the primary drivers.
While the process looks the same in its physical form, our voting system has become data driven like most other systems in this Information Age. It is no longer comprised solely of people; it also includes tangible and intangible objects with which we have a very limited understanding like hardware, software and, the most important one of all, data.
Data driven is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot. Technically speaking, the term is meant to define a system whose decision-making process is determined by collecting and analyzing data on a continuous basis.
Siri and Alexa are examples of data driven technologies. These intelligent systems continuously learn our habits and behaviors to the degree they can fulfill our requests with efficiency, even to the point of predicting what we want before requesting it.
That’s pretty damn powerful, don’t you think?
In no way, shape or form am I saying our voting system is an example of intelligent technology. In fact, it’s far from it. Which is why I’m a strong advocate for verifying the data these voting systems are producing.
Our collective ignorance and attention to election data was on full display in 2016, and if we’re not careful, 2020 will be a repeat performance, with even more chaotic and catastrophic results. I’m not saying that to frighten anyone; I’m just paraphrasing Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. He said it in his investigative report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as in a public statement.
Let’s be clear about a few things. First, Trump and the GOP are willingly conceding the House to Democrats. Secondly, the GOP knows they don’t have the numbers, but they’re silently riding Trump’s coattail, hoping for a victory at the top of the ticket will trickle down to races further down the ballot. Finally, Trump doesn’t care about the numbers because he’s prepared to interject chaos into the election, in the event he doesn’t like the result. This is especially troubling in counties and states where ballots are cast electronically, and why hand-marked paper ballots should be a requirement in every state.
If we are going to embrace the wisdom of Brother Malcolm and heed the lessons learned from the 2016 election, then establishing a system whereby citizens can collect their own data, audit and verify official precinct voter data sounds like logical response. This is not to say efforts to increase the number of registered voters and challenge voter suppression laws in court aren’t needed; they are vitally important. It’s just that these efforts fall short of addressing the data is-sues discovered in 2016 and subsequent elections.
Analysis of voter data in recent elections has shown that as the number of voters in predominantly African American precincts increased, so has the number of under counted ballots. In the 2016 election, Trump won Florida by 112,000 votes in 2016. His margin of victory was slightly more than one percent
In the 2016 and 2018 general elections, several African American precincts in Broward County experienced an 18%—25% drop in voter participation from 2012. The drop in voter turnout in these precincts far exceeded the rate experienced in surrounding precincts that also saw a lower turnout. Although the 2018 election resulted in a re-count, there has been no legal challenge to the results from those precincts.
Incidents like this are more likely to be identified and resolved when citizens are empowered to collect, monitor and audit data from their local precinct. By collecting our own data, and monitoring and verifying precinct voter data, we ensure the integrity of election results and prevent any ensuing chaos caused by unreliable, and possibly tainted data.