Thursday, January 25, 2007

Making Sure Votes Count

We need to do more to ensure all votes are counted and fraud, in all its various forms, is minimized. Stories like this are disturbing and should not happen in a democratic society.

CLEVELAND (AP) — Two election workers in the state's most populous county were convicted Wednesday of illegally rigging the 2004 presidential election recount
so they could avoid a more thorough review of the votes.

The thing is, nothing may have happened here. But we should not have to wonder whether something illegal happened. And we should always ensure we have the means to check the accuracy of our votes. For that's the true cornerstone of our democratic and a free society. It should be obvious, but without confidence that our votes count, we fail to be truly democratic.

The scary thing for me is what happens if impropriety occurs. Take the New Hampshire phone jamming scandal, where people where convicted. Now, we'll never know whether the illegal activities changed the election results. The doubt itself is enough to take steps to ensure this never happens again. But let's take a hypothetical case. What happens if we were to find out that some illegal activity actually changed election results? And let's put it on a larger scandal. Let's say hackers switched 300,000 votes on voting machines to sway the presidential election. And let's say we discover this 2 years later. Besides punishing the guilty parties, what can be done? As long as they were smart, it would take years to build a case against the party in power. And what if there were political operatives involved but no evidence linking the administration. What then? Do we remove the administration from office? Does the true vote winner only serve 2 years or do we allow him 4 (making 6 years between presidential elections)? Do we have Doc create millions of DeLoreans with flux capaciters so we can erase the last 2 years?

Because I never want our country to deal with these or similar issues, we should take steps to ensure our votes are not only secure but the process is as open as possible. It's our votes dammit - we should be able to monitor the process that counts them. Election officials should be non-partisan for starters - sometimes the appearance of impropriety needs to be erased to ensure nothing illegal happens. As long as election officials use their positions as stepping stones to bigger and better positions, the incentive for them to "deliver" electoral results will be huge. We also need to ensure there is a paper trail for every vote. And this paper trail needs to be sampled to test whether they match up with electronic results. And we need to have very steep fines and jail time for people who interfere with voting, be it changing results, suppression, or fraud (this may already be included and I'm just not aware). I could go on and on but I think you get the point.


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