Technically Speaking * Political Commentary
By Perry Busby
Writing a weekly column about issues and lack of integrity in our voting system has its challenges. First, making a compelling argument each week isn’t quite so easy when many harbor suspicions about the legitimacy and accuracy of elections, in the first place. Secondly, talking about faulty, malfunctioning voting equipment isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of head turning news. Especially, when the top news of the day is the impeachment of the current sitting President for seeking a foreign government’s assistance to alter the outcome of upcoming elections.
All represent a form of election rigging, but pointing out problems with voting machines, e-poll books and wireless cards technology won’t generate nearly the same number of responses as an article exposing scandalous activity and bad behavior.
Don’t believe me? Let me present Exhibit A: October 7, 2016 was the day Directors from Homeland Security and National Intelligence announced Russians had hacked into U.S. election systems. As critical and alarming as that message was, an overwhelming majority remembers the day for another news story: the release of the Access Hollywood tape with Republican candidate Donald Trump bragging about how he sexually assaulted women. A portion of that group also remembers it as the day WikiLeaks released emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Let me be clear. I am not saying our elections are going to be rigged. I love a good conspiracy, but I’m not here to spread conspiracies. My intention is, and will always be, to pass along information that will help you understand how to navigate these changing times in our elections.
Recently I was speaking to a group about the advantages of developing citizen-based audit teams when a participant who had been engrossed in the discussion from beginning to end asked how I would explain the importance of this type of audit to someone who didn’t know anything about voting or technology.
Let’s pretend voting is a bank. Each year, we bring our currency (ballots) to the bank, and drop it into the bill counter. We assume the counter is more efficient and accurate, even though it’s been known to miscalculate or change the amount on some bills, or not count some depositor’s dollars at all. We just drop it into the counter, walk away and wait for the bank to tell us how much was collectively deposited. Since participation plays a key role in determining the deposit’s outcome, we concentrate our efforts on recruitment and challenging policies that exclude and create barriers. Even as uncertainty looms over the outcome each year, we faithfully drop our uncounted cash into the counter, cross our fingers and pray the outcome will be favorable.
It sounds a little far-fetched, I know. However, this is essentially what happens year after year in our elections. We bring the collective currency of our voices and deposit it into the bank of democracy, with its flawed, insufficient and vulnerable equipment, and readily accept the result, on the presumption of accuracy and reliability. To make matters worse, we never reconcile the check registry and neither does the bank.
If voting is as sacred and precious as we proclaim, then why aren’t we treating it with the same care and oversight as we do that other sacred and precious thing in our life, money?
Most of us have bank accounts that are far from overflowing with cash. We check them regularly to verify the balance and to make sure all transactions are accounted. Some people, especially those who have been the victim of identity theft, readily admit they check their account daily to avoid such attacks. Not only that, if the amount on our paycheck varies or we receive payments from multiple sources, in addition to verifying the deposit, we will also make sure the amount on the check stub is accurate and identical to what was deposited. Yet, when it comes to our voter status and history, we don’t have a clue what’s in our file.
We will spend hours upon hours when it comes to the stewardship of our money. We’re either fretting over the little we have or trying to get more of it. But, when it comes to voting, we want to get it over with as quickly as possible. We are not the only ones who feel this way; so do many state and county election officials. Election offices function in one of two modes: preparing for an election and closing an election. Since elections are labor and time intensive exercises, only a few states require county election offices to audit results, although there is no serious penalty for non-compliance.
I know some of you might think I’m crazy for saying a ballot is like money, but before you fit me in one of those white starched straightjackets, remember, elections are now data driven processes, and data is now considered a new currency. Even if you aren’t willing to accept my premise, I’m sure you can agree that operating a checking account without ever checking it is foolish. Just ask anyone who has tried. The story never ends well.
Let me know what you think. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always stay tuned to the Westside Gazette for more information about your vote.