Quality and Voting Machines

Imagine the discipline of Quality applied to voting machines. Business Wire story, ASQ Quality Report Offers Solutions to Error-Proof Voting Machines <read> .  Basic modern engineering but we are not applying Quality techniques to voting.

Perhaps much more is needed than outlined in this article to produce a voting system with integrity, confidence, and efficiency. However, using standard quality techniques could go a long way to protect our votes. Consider the level of testing of medical equipment and medical staff. Compare that to voting system equipment and election official training. Simpler, more foolproof equipment and procedures are even more important when the people using the equipment don’t run elections or vote every day.

“It’s very important for citizens to have as much trust in their voting systems as they have in their medical care systems or air travel,” says ASQ quality expert Liz Keim, a past president of ASQ. “So why not leverage some of the same basic tools that bring reliability to critical functions like medical care and air transport to solve quality problems that continue to plague our elections?” she asks.

. But paper trails alone aren’t enough. Keim says that audits, a common quality assurance practice, could aid the election process in two ways:

  • Post-election audits of election results would detect anomalies that indicate either fraud or systemic errors in the voting equipment… I.
  • Audits against an established standard. The Election Assistance Commission is now working to establish such a standard of ‘best practice’ for use by local and state governments. This audit of election systems(processes, procedures and equipment) would take place in the months prior to an election and provide a much better understanding of voting systems.

Basic quality approaches that Keim refers to include:

  • Establishing standardized procedures such as voting machine start-up protocols, voter instruction procedures, and steps for secure handling of ballots and equipment;
  • Implementing simple checklists based on those standardized procedures; and
  • Adequate testing of proposed solutions.

…”The people running our polling places are frequently the overlooked link in the system,” states Keim. “You don’t send out a waiter to serve dinners without adequate training, and you don’t send a hospital lab tech to draw blood if they’ve never done it before, so why do we seem so unconcerned about having the right people with the right training run something as important as our elections?”

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