How Far Have We Come Since 2016?

Have not posted much since the Election, there has been plenty of true and false information to read from all sources. Time now for a little perspective.

Recall 2016, when Jill Stein and others demanded recounts and audits in MI, WI, and PA. They were largely thwarted by officials. Little was possible in PA with no paper records of votes to count. Potential Russian hacking of epollbooks across a county in NC which was never credibly investigated. Government conclusions that there was no evidence that election systems were hacked, without checking for any. Those involved in the recounts/audits, such as the were, conclude that the saw not evidence of hacking. Yet the government acknowledged there were 18 states with attempts (often mis-characterized as 21 attempts) at accessing voter lists. To many, including yours truly, Georgia represented the most questionable state with Secretary of State Kemp on the ballot for Governor, vulnerable, critical election data left on a server before the election – destroyed by officials precluding forensic analysis, voter purges, and no paper records of votes.

We have come quite a way since then in the 2020 election:

  • Georgia and Philadelphia now have new Ballot Marking Devices providing paper records for recounts.
  • Georgia has a Risk Limiting (tabulation) Audit (RLA).
  • Georgia by RLA and Philadelphia by recount, counted their paper ballots by hand.
  • Georgia also by recount used machines to recount them all.
  • Georgia officials, mostly Republican, defended the claim that Biden won. Even Governor Kemp.
  • Other mostly Republican states defended Biden’s win.
  • The Government beefed up cyber defenses and monitoring.
  • Online media improved their monitoring and response to false information.

Yet we have much farther to go:

  • We need Voter-Marked Paper Ballots everywhere. Despite claims to the contrary, Ballot Marking Devices do not provide voter-verified ballots. Tests and observations clearly demonstrate that about 90% of voters make no effort to check their ballots, that many who try fail to check well, and most officials would understandably not believe them if they complain.
  • Many RLA laws, like Georgia’s, are inadequate and poorly written. They like many audit laws fail to come close to the Principles and Best Practices for Post-Election Audits. They don’t specify enough details/requirements for RLAs. They mis-state RLAs. They allow election officials to pick races for audit after the fact, all but encouraging picking races with large margins, rather than close races.
  • Georgia’s RLA was really a complete hand recount. Much more valuable than a RLA.
  • Georgia’s hand recount did not count. That is why the official recount was machine recount, an extra waste of time. An adequate RLA law could eliminate the need for machine recounts and result in a full hand recount only when necessary – like it was in Georgia this year.
  • Georgia’s hand recount was not well planned, and not transparent. We can applaud the recount and the hard work involved, yet next time there should be detailed procedures published in advanced, oversight to be sure those procedures are followed, and transparency – observers were unable to see and verify results sheets, compare results to original batch totals, and see that the correct numbers were entered into the results accumulation system, designed for an RLA and not a full recount.
  • The audits and recounts only covered vote Tabulation. Full audits should include transparent audits of the chain-of-custody, eligibility, and other aspects of election administration.
  • Many of these same issues apply to other close states this year and to many other states as well.

Once again, we applaud officials who did exemplary work in trying conditions, especially those defending results they would have had otherwise.

In a future post we will go over some of these issues in more details, comparing to the standards in the Principles and Best Practices.




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