Common Sense: Laws must be Sufficient, Enforceable, and Enforced

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

In one of his books, Gerry Weinberg pointed out that employee evaluations should be multiplicative not additive, that is, the various dimensions of performance and capabilities should be multiplied rather than added to determine the overall value of an employee.  e.g. If my writing and verbal communication are poor, no matter how much technical knowledge I have, what I can contribute is very limited, yet with just average skills in every other area matched with high technical knowledge one can accomplish a lot.  Similarly with great interpersonal skills, yet poor technical judgement, I can be less than valuable!

There is an analogy with laws, including election laws.  Laws must be Sufficient, Enforceable, and Enforced e.g.

  • Sufficient  –  Laws have to be sufficient to prevent that which they are designed to prevent, or to protect what they have been designed to protect. e.g. In Connecticut we have weak ballot security laws: They do not protect all ballots until they are needed for post-election audits; some of the security requirements are ambiguous, open to multiple interpretations; and are based on unwarranted trust in weak seals and entirely lacking in seal protocols.
  • Enforceable – There has to be a reasonable means of enforcing the law.  Once again, we point to ballot security in Connecticut where it is generally believed (ambiguous law) that two individuals from opposing parties must be involved in any access to ballots, yet most ballots are locked in cabinets in rooms with a single lock, with both registrars and often others having access to a key, along with a log of access maintained by an honor system.
  • Enforced – In reality the must actually be enforced. In recent years we have seen many examples, from banking fraud, leaks of classified information by high-level officials, and campaign finance laws.

We were reminded of this limitations today with an article, one among several recently, on the Federal Elections Commission: More Soft Money Hard Law <read>  The FEC is stymied by partisan gridlock.

We all have seen the lack of strong enforcement against the fraudulent activities of big banks, their management, and employees. Or, perhaps less known, existing trade agreements with environmental and labor protections which are ignored, rendering the provisions that sound powerful, generally meaningless.

So, whenever we ask for sufficient election laws, we remind that more is needed. They must also be enforceable and enforced. Missing one of these three components, all value is lost.

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