“Does your vote count?” Glastonbury MLK Conversation

Last Wednesday evening, I was one of five speakers and a moderator at a Community Conversation held by the Glastonbury Martin Luther King Community Initiative.  There were about 60 to 75 in attendance.  We addressed “Does your vote count? An examination of the issues.”  I addressed issues in two areas:  How could you know if your vote was counted? And what I would recommend to expand democracy in Connecticut, without risking election integrity.  Here are my prepared remarks <read>

Some excerpts:

I tend not to agree with anyone 100% of the time.  I view voting through a lens of balancing three priorities

  • Voting Integrity, that is Justified Confidence
  • Engaging more people in Democracy
  • The costs of Elections

To me, Justified Confidence is the highest priority, followed by a balance between increasing voter engagement and cost.

Let’s talk voting integrity.  Said another way “Does your vote count?”  The problem is that you and I cannot answer that question.  The systems we have, by intention or not, prevent us from answering that question…

For Democracy to function, citizens must have JUSTIFIED CONFIDENCE in elections — elections providing strong evidence that the correct winner was declared.

The 2016 elections surfaced two election integrity questions in the minds of many citizens:

  • First, Did the Russians hack our election systems? That is distinct from did they influence our elections?
  • Second, Were the winners of the Primaries and Election accurately determined?

There is a lack of confidence in the system. There are legitimate, yet often exaggerated questions of integrity.

It is especially important that losers believe they lost fair and square.

There is excessive emphasis on Russian hacking,  ignoring other risks. And a myriad of other cyber-attacks are just a part of the risks…

There is too much emphasis on cyber-attack by outsiders.  The greater risk is INSIDER ATTACK.  Insider attack is easier and likely more frequent – air-gaps cannot prevent insider attack – there is motive, opportunity, and the ability to cover-up…

Fortunately. there are remedies to these risks and lack of credibility.  They come down to TRANSPARENT, PUBLICLY VERIFIABLE ELECTIONS.  That is elections where every critical aspect CAN be verified by citizens, candidates, and parties.

“Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence.”…

We need to open-up the system to candidates.

  • I would enhance our Citizen’s Election Program.
  • We should reduce prohibitive signature and finance requirements for third-party and petitioning candidates.
  • We have a crazy law that prevents the posting of the list of Write-In Candidates in polling places. Posting the list should be mandatory…

The evidence is not that Millennials avoid voting because it’s inconvenient. They avoid it because they don’t have enough information about voting and candidates.

  • We need to change our archaic lever-look ballot layout. I am tired of consoling voters who missed the question on the ballot.
  • We need better voting web sites in Connecticut’s towns, many lack critical information, some have incorrect information.
  • We have Election Day Registration, yet it is the most difficult, and restrictive in the Nation. That would remedy many of the errors that cause voters to be unintentionally not registered or removed from the roles…

I am an election official, a Certified Moderator. I ran our Glastonbury Academy polling place in the 2016 presidential primary. That day changed me.

Let’s at least allow unaffiliated voters to vote in the primary. I saw many voters who did not understand the system and could not vote. They were not party regulars, they were first time voters or those that had not voted in years. I was moved that very few were upset that they could not vote. That bothers me. We may never see them attempting to participate in democracy again.

Finally, Two things you can do to help – two days for each election.

  • First, volunteer one weekday observing a post-election audit with the Citizen Audit.
  • Second, Invest a day as an election official at your local polling place.

I guarantee you will learn a lot.  Let us work together, to create a flourishing democracy we can trust.

************Update 2/29/2018

Courant coverage: Does Your Vote Count <read>

Note one small misquote:

“First, did the Russians hack our election systems? Second, were the winners of the primary elections actually determined?” [Weeks] said.
That ‘actually’ should be ‘accurately’ !




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