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REAL election reform

  1. Nov 1, 2008 #1

    turbo

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    Elections can be won in the media and the press, but they are lost at the polls, when people are denied the opportunity to vote or are required to vote by methods that can be hacked or subverted.

    I would like to propose that every single vote in the US be supplied with a paper ballot, with partial arrows (shafts missing) so that the voters can connect the head and tail of the arrow to point to their choice. (This is the method used in my last residence.) Every ballot would be tabulated by an optical scanner and every ballot would be preserved to be recounted in the event of a dispute. Optical scanners can be dumbed-down to the level at which they cannot be hacked, unlike touch-screen and other electronic machines, and if there are irregularities, the ballots can easily be re-tabulated with scanners that are certified and are under control of a bi-partisan agency.

    Under such a system, we could move confidently to a popular-vote electoral system. This would eliminate gerrymandering and social engineering, and make voter suppression efforts much harder to mount.

    I'm open for suggestions. If Obama wins (Hope!), I'm going to start hammering him and his administration with this. We can't afford to have more elections hinge on the honesty of local registrars, attorney generals, secretaries of state, each with their own axes to grind. We need a consistent and verifiable method of voting that allows all individuals to express themselves. BTW, I think that every citizen ought to be able to vote via absentee ballot with no special requirements. This would reduce congestion at the polls and would allow everybody to vote. Some states require that you be infirm or disabled before you can apply for an absentee ballot. What about an an elderly person who is relatively fit, but cannot stand for hours, or a caregiver to a child, elderly, relative, or a person who has only an hour or two to spare before they have to be at their job or risk getting fired? Should they be disenfranchised because they have critical duties that cannot be ignored?
     
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  3. Nov 1, 2008 #2

    Moonbear

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    Unfortunately, I'm not expecting election reform unless something completely catastrophic happens to bring it about. The reason is simple. The current system worked for every person elected to an office with the power to change it.
     
  4. Nov 1, 2008 #3

    turbo

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    You're absolutely right. I hope that in the pursuit of fairness and real one-person-one-vote elections that we can shame the Dems and the Reps into moving in the right direction. Robert Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast have been working together to try to show how our electoral process is being subverted, and they are doing a credible job, BUT aside from Huffington Post and Democracy Now! they get no coverage. The mainstream press and aired media ignore the problem.
     
  5. Nov 1, 2008 #4

    russ_watters

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    To me that would imply that they are not doing a credible job, but ok...
     
  6. Nov 1, 2008 #5

    turbo

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    They are doing a great job, but mainstream media derives ad-revenue from the parties when the parties are in a spending mood, and when the media characterize every battle as a toss-up. They are not into minutia about the fairness of voting - they are scooping up bucks. I get nothing from Obama in my mail-box - I get at least 2-3 mailers every other day from McCain railing about how unpatriotic Obama is, or how he is going to dismantle America and make a socialist society. It's pretty sick. McCain hopes to pry away the ONE electoral vote that he might get from getting a majority in the popular vote, and he is getting really radical and nasty to try to pull it off. You would not believe even a small percentage of the crap that McCain is accusing Obama of.
     
  7. Nov 1, 2008 #6

    Moonbear

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    I agree, the media want to push the elections in the direction of more controversy. If everyone got along and played nice, they'd have no juicy stories to report on. But, this is the general population's fault too, because we (not necessarily you and me, but the population in general) gobble up these juicy stories and tune out the stations with mundane, non-sensationalized news stories.

    Really? I don't get any ads from either one of them. I've gotten a few robo-calls, but really not even much of that. I get plastered with a lot more ads for local elections.
     
  8. Nov 1, 2008 #7

    turbo

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    Maine's 2nd district is really rural and uneducated, and McCain is pounding us with mailers demonizing Obama and accusing him of pretty much everything. The fact that he is pulling out all the stops to try to win one electoral vote in one piddly state is telling.
     
  9. Nov 1, 2008 #8

    Moonbear

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    Telling of what? That he knows it's going to be a close election and every electoral vote counts? We get the TV ads here, but probably no fliers because both campaigns are already convinced this state is going for McCain so neither is wasting extra money on us.
     
  10. Nov 2, 2008 #9

    russ_watters

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    In any case, on the original topic, paper balloting seems like a terrible idea to me, especially when you add in absentee balloting. It will make fraud and manipulation childs-play. Today, groups like Acorn go out and register voters. If everyone voted at home, they'd be helping people fill out the ballot cards. And what if people steal the cards out of the mail (either before or after they are filled out)? Absentee ballots are necessisary, but to me they seem like the very easiest target for fraud and manipulation.
     
  11. Nov 2, 2008 #10

    turbo

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    Perhaps, but at least there is a paper-trail of ballots that can be recounted if necessary. When electronic voting machines are hacked, with no paper trail, it is impossible to verify election results by an alternate count.
     
  12. Nov 2, 2008 #11

    russ_watters

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    Recounting fraudulent paper votes doesn't make them any less fraudulent. So that is the same problem either way.

    The actual security/accuracy difference between paper and electronic is two-fold:
    -One takes no skill at all to "hack" since it is paper. The other is encrypted.
    -One has built-in/guaranteed counting error and the other doesn't. Talk of the importantance of recounts is only really relevant when there is an inherrent error to be addressed.

    What this comes down to, as always, is the "Black Box". People don't trust what they don't understand or can't see. Actual security is irrelevant to them because fear takes over. There are also still people who don't use ATMs.

    Heck, Turbo-1, you're a democrat: you do know that if all of the balloting in Florida had been electronic, Gore would be President today, right? The inherrent error in paper balloting, skewed in economic demographics, was enough to swing that election. You should be demanding electronic balloting!

    [edit again] Note also that making every ballot paper does not even-out the error (not that we should even want to accept such a thing). Paper ballots have the inherrent flaw of not providing instant feedback about whether your vote is being/has been counted (see: hanging chads), which means people who are not good at following directions will never know if they voted correctly.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2008
  13. Nov 2, 2008 #12

    turbo

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    Speaking of security, the GOP is harping on ACORN pretty heavy, claiming that they are trying to steal the election. Why is that? When the League of Women Voters holds registration drives, they are doing EXACTLY what ACORN is doing. The only difference is that ACORN is targeting voters in poorer neighborhoods, and many of those neighborhoods have high minority populations. The GOP knows that ACORN can't steal the election - they just don't want economically-disadvantaged or minority people voting, because they will likely vote Democratic.
     
  14. Nov 2, 2008 #13

    Hurkyl

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    People who make claims like this are the people I am most suspicious of -- because it usually means one of the following:
    1. The person has no idea about security
    2. The person is trying to pull one over on me

    But I see a glaring omission in your plan -- how would I, as a voter, ensure that my vote was counted, and counted correctly?

    (And in a way that doesn't allow me to be to be coerced / bribed to vote in a specific way -- e.g. giving each voter a paper "receipt" that explicitly states how 'e voted is a bad idea)
     
  15. Nov 2, 2008 #14

    LowlyPion

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    The fact remains that paper ballots are harder to fake. They leave a paper trail.

    Once your "encrypted" vote is thrown into the bowels of a computer there's no way to unscramble the omelet.
     
  16. Nov 2, 2008 #15

    Hurkyl

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    You give up too easily. The problem is not as impossible as you make it seem.
     
  17. Nov 2, 2008 #16

    LowlyPion

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    I don't object to touch screens so long as there is a paper receipt that the voter can review and deposit as a check against the machine before leaving. No receipt leaves the polling place.

    If the voter sees a discrepancy they can immediately dispute it. And the time stamp and machine number leaves a way to deal with it. If there is discrepancy then vote totals can be matched if need be. Monte Carlo methods can be used to randomly spot check machines and precincts and confidence can be developed that the numbers are representative.

    Isolated onesies fraud (voting where you lived and where you moved) will likely always be difficult to stop, but that is not a great concern when it comes to 100 million plus votes.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2008
  18. Nov 2, 2008 #17

    LowlyPion

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    It's not a matter of giving up. If it is to be a secret ballot, then once the vote goes down the chute the voter has no recourse. There is no longer any way to distinguish between votes, and hence no way to remediate error.
     
  19. Nov 2, 2008 #18

    Evo

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    Some areas have the paper ballot, which is optically scanned into a computer, so it is recorded and tabulated electronically, and they also have the paper ballot which was inserted into the machine as an original backup.
     
  20. Nov 2, 2008 #19

    Hurkyl

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    You're simply not being imaginative enough. A brief google search for
    turns up some interesting things.

    This page was an interesting (free) one.
     
  21. Nov 2, 2008 #20

    turbo

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    That's the method that is used in the county seat here. There are 15-20 booths and a couple of optical scanners/tabulators in use. It's old technology, but it's a lot more reliable than electronic voting machines AND it's verifiable. If anomalous results turn up, the ballots can be re-scanned on another scanner for verification or hand-counted. In close elections, the candidates almost always opt for a hand-count.
     
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