The System That Won’t Prove It Is Accurate

Jonathan Simon says it so well at Truthout: Between Trump and a Hard Place: The Truth About “Rigged” Elections <read>

The truth Trump is inadvertently pointing to is not that elections in the United States are rigged, but that our privatized, electronic vote counting system is unobservable and incapable of proving that it is not rigged. This is a true crisis for American democracy…

Lost, though, in the bipartisan condemnation of Trump and passionate renditions of America the Beautiful is an undeniable reality. Our computerized, unobservable vote counting system actually cannot prove or demonstrate that it is fraud-free. It simply cannot answer a challenge to its fidelity from Trump or anyone else, whether the challenge is justified or baseless, sincere or cynical…

It is true that our electronic voting machines are vulnerable to both hacking by outsiders and rigging by insiders. And it is not true that the experts have proclaimed our voting system “sound.” In fact, the experts — from Princeton to NYU’s Brennan Center to the US Government Accountability Office — have concluded that vote counting computers in wide use across the US can easily and undetectably be programmed to miscount votes and swing elections…

Sold on speed and convenience as our democratic priority rather than integrity, our nation has privatized, outsourced, and computerized our vote counting process. It should be rather obvious that the unidentified insiders charged with the programming, and anyone working through them, enjoy an even greater level of access to the counting process than do foreign hackers targeting our systems from the outside. It should be obvious that this is a colossally stupid risk for our nation to take. And it should be obvious that there is something wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee wrong when those upon whom the public relies for information refuse to seriously address and come clean about that risk…

Instead of chanting mantras about the security and fidelity of our elections, we need to respond to the truth that has been revealed by fast-tracking transparency reforms embodied in such proposed legislation as the Electoral Integrity Act, which now has more than 70 sponsors in Congress.

If vote counting continues to be unobservable, with the process outsourced to a few corporations, mere assurances will not be enough to restore trust in our elections. Only a public, observable counting process (i.e., hand-counted paper ballots or uniform public audits with gleaming teeth) can rebuild our shattered faith in the fidelity of our electoral process.

I chose the post title deliberately. “The System” is not computers or pollworkers, but the whole voting system created by people we have put in charge. That system could be changed moderately to provide proof of its accuracy. It is that the system of people won’t recognize and address the problem.

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