Common Sense: Integrity and Confidence

Note: This is the forth post in an occasional series on Common Sense Election Integrity, summarizing, updating, and expanding on many previous posts covering election integrity, focused on Connecticut. <previous><next>

Posting on a recent presentation we realized that we often speak of the need for ‘Integrity and Confidence’ in elections, yet the words ‘Integrity’ and ‘Confidence’ are often misunderstood, with their meanings collapsed. We need both confidence and integrity in our elections, neither alone is sufficient.

Integrity

We find the Wikipedia definition of Integrity close to what we mean when we call for election integrity.

Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions. Integrity can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy,[1] in that it regards internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs.

In elections, to us, integrity means that the voters’ intentions are realized in the results of each race or contest. That within reason every vote is counted accurately. It means that the entire system of voter registration, ballot access, and election administration functions according to law and common sense expectations of the public. A system where what we expect is what we get, and what we expect is democracy. A system sufficient for the people to control, define, and elect their government.

Confidence

For Confidence we prefer Dictionary.com’s definition:

Confidence. 1.full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing: We have every confidence in their ability to succeed. 3.certitude; assurance: He described the situation with such confidence that the audience believed him completely.

In elections, to us, confidence means that the vast majority of voters and candidates trust that voters’ intentions are realized in the results of each race or contest. They trust that within reason every vote is counted accurately. It means that they trust the entire system of voter registration, ballot access, and election administration functions according to law and common sense expectations of the public. They believe we have a system that provides that what we expect is what we get, and what we expect is democracy. They trust we have a system sufficient for the people to control, define, and elect their government.

Confidence without Integrity

The Madison Avenue, vigilance free system. A system which the public and candidates trust, which in reality is not one of integrity. Such a system would not be sufficient for democracy because the will of the people would be thwarted through election errors, election skulduggery, voter suppression, or insufficient ballot access. Largely a myth created by weak, fearful, gullible, or duplicitous officials, believed by some of the people some of the time. Symptoms include lack of transparency, defensiveness, and errors attributed to rare, unique and explainable mistakes.

Without Confidence and without Integrity

A system without integrity with weaknesses more transparent to the public, than apparent to officials. This system is more prevalent than systems with confidence and without integrity. We have been admonished by some officials to  “Stop doing what you are doing because it will scare the voters away from the polls“. We have news for  such officials and politicians: The public has a general lack of confidence in the system already. When we asked voters to sign a petition calling for increased integrity and confidence in elections, most immediately agreed to sign – they recognized the need. The second most prevalent reaction was to laugh and walk away indicating that it was a hopeless quest.

Integrity without Confidence

Yet, a lack of confidence does not necessarily imply a lack of integrity; perhaps power does not always corrupt a weak link; perhaps transparency is not necessary for election integrity; perhaps elections are an exception to what we see when we lift the veil of government secrecy in every other area. Confidence requires a transparent system. In addition confidence requires laws and procedures that are sufficient, enforceable, and enforced. Unless the laws of human nature are suspended for elections, integrity also would require those same things: laws and procedures that are sufficient, enforceable, and enforced. Sufficient laws must go beyond punishing the guilty and correcting the innocent; sufficient procedures must go beyond correcting errors and mistakes so that they will not happen again; the system must assure redress of incorrect results.

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