Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Secret yet ac-"count"-able voting

This is a kind of short version of the post.
There is a simple way to fix our election process to almost completely remove fraud, count it quickly and make it easy for anyone to review and check the counting of the votes.  Computers can be used to assist in adding columns of numbers by using well-known common tools like Excel yet with personal and public oversight of every single vote.

Here's how its done:

  1. Print up each ballot with a random number that is long enough to not easily be memorized yet short enough to conveniently write down.  It only has to be non-repeating for the precinct and for that vote.
  2. At the polls count the ballots by entering into a spreadsheet the ballot random number and how the votes were cast for each ballot. 
  3. Do this with as many (at least 3) independent backup counts as desired and simply compare the spreadsheets by saving them as .csv files sorted by ballot random number and then comparing the .csv files using a standard diffing tool programmers use all the time to note changes in files.
  4. Once all the spreadsheets jive (all discrepancies have been resolved among the various counters), post one of them for the precinct up on a website which the county uses to show everyone the votes for each precinct.  The entire spreadsheet is posted along with a summary of the counts that is easily verified by summing the appropriate columns in the precinct spreadsheet.
  5. These summaries are in turn entered into another spreadsheet to add up all the precinct votes for the county.  This summary spreadsheet is posted as well on the same county site.
  6. Do the same thing for the state and federal levels by having them simply copy the summaries from the lower level sites and summarizing those as needed.
Now what you have is a public record anyone can double check in as much detail as they might like.  The physical ballots would be stored at the county level and anyone can go and check that they jive with the precinct spreadsheet publicly posted online.  Any voter who decided to write down their random ballot number can verify their votes were entered correctly online and can call the county election people to report anything that doesn't fit with what they remember voting for.  There could even be a way to electronically report any discrepancies you see with either the sums or your personal voting record.  If multiple people report problems with the same random ballot number - we know somebody screwed up.  If many people find the sums aren't right, we can fix that pretty easy.
A recount can be done very quickly and check to any depth at any time by anyone with little bothering the government at any level with the exception of viewing the original ballots.  Even these could each be scanned into an image file for public scrutiny while the physical ballots are kept safe to verify the images are correct.

With such a system, we can't necessarily correct all errors but we can know how many there are and can quickly get statistics comparing precincts to know when fraud is likely.

Also, all absentee ballots should go away.  It is of critical importance that all votes be made on the same day in person with ID required and at a local precinct where most voters will be recognized.  

Anyone that knows they can't make it to the poling place can simply grant a specific power of attorney to another individual who can use that and the IDs of both the voter and his/her proxy agent with the desired votes noted on the power of attorney letter which must be signed and notarized for acceptance.  Dead people will never be able to vote if this is enforced.

This is so simple and it is so efficient and "transparent" - I hope we can make this a reality.
Pass this on if you agree -especially to your representatives at the city, county, state and federal levels.