Re: OVC-discuss Digest on "dumb scanners"

From: Marc Baber <marc_at_botworks_dot_com>
Date: Thu Dec 07 2006 - 02:26:15 CST

Charlie, this is not a show stopper at all.

First, although I would propose that the ballots have serial numbers so
voters themselves could verify that their votes were recorded as they
were cast, the serial numbers are never recorded anywhere in association
with the name or personally-identifying information of an individual, so
voter privacy is assured unless the voter him or herself chooses to
divulge the information. My personal position is that you'll never
really be able to guarantee people that their votes are recorded as they
were cast, until you give them a way to verify for themselves,
individually, that their own votes were, in fact, recorded and counted
as they were cast. And, to me, that means providing a way to check and
verify their vote after it has been cast and counted.

The publishing of raw ballot data on the web, giving the voter the
ability to look up their own ballot is the best way, in my opinion, to
make this guarantee meaningful. No other plan even comes close to this
level of assurance of democracy.

Even though this plan would allow someone to sell their vote, it is by
no means a showstopper.

In Oregon, we've used vote by mail for about 6-7 years now and there
have been zero reported instances of coercion or vote-buying, according
to our Secretary of State, even though voters have a two-week window
between the time they receive their ballots at home and when the ballots
must be returned to the Elections Division by mail or at drop-off
locations. This is essentially the same as every absentee voting system
in the country.

I looked at the 2004 Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS) on the web site to see how many instances of voter coercion
and vote selling there were. Out of over 40,000 incidents nationwide,
there were only ten that involved vote buying, selling or coercion.
None of these incidents involved absentee ballots and all of them
involved regular voters at polling places. In one instance, a poll
worker was giving voters slips of paper after they voted and telling
them where to go to get their $50. So, it would seem that poll workers,
in league with paymasters, are a bigger threat of vote-buying.

Although vote-buying is the most commonly raised objection to the plan
I've proposed, there is no evidence that it happens in significant
numbers at all. It is, essentially, a non-existent problem like voter

With power comes responsibility. In the U.S. we sell people guns,
knives, bows and arrows, swords, explosives, chemicals, poisons,
gasoline and many other lethally dangerous weapons and materials. In
general, we trust each other not to abuse these things, but just in
case, we have laws for punishing individuals who do abuse such weapons
and materials to harm others. We are a country that insists on freedom
AND personal responsibility for individuals at the core of our culture,
if not in every anecdotal instance.

Thus, I would submit that the real freedom of voting must be guaranteed
with individual verification, even if there is a risk of vote-selling.
Like murder and assault, vote buying, selling and coercion are crimes
that can happen today but are very very rare. They are also felonies.

Some would object saying, "but when it's in no one's interest to report
vote buying, selling and coercion, no one will". In the case of voter
coercion, the argument fails because any disgruntled employee or
ex-abused-spouse would probably be all to happy to turn in their former
boss or spouse as vote coercers.

But there could be some truth to that objection in the case of vote
buying/selling. I would propose dealing with the threat of vote-buying
as follows:

1. Make sure both vote buying and selling are felonies with huge fines
and long jail sentences and that all reported instances are investigated.

2. Nonetheless, always provide amnesty and financial rewards for the
"little fish" who come forward to turn in people who bought their vote.
If the vote-buyer is, in turn, willing to cooperate and reveal names of
wholesale vote buyers above him/her, same story: amnesty and rewards.
In this way, there could be a very large incentive to turn in
vote-buyers. This policy would have a very chilling effect on
solicitations to buy votes, especially in our era of shirt pocket video
cameras. A vote buyer will know that the voter, who is desperate enough
in November for money to sell their vote will likely be desperate enough
for money in December to turn them into the police.

In short my opinion is that the issue of vote-buying is a red herring
that keeps us from proposing any system that gives us real verification
of our own votes and creates an atmosphere of secrecy in which far worse
abuses are thriving. The plan I propose would solve the vast majority
of the other 39,990+ problems in the EIRS database. I think we need to
go with a plan that solves those real problems.

Thanks for reading,


Charlie Strauss wrote:
> MArc thank you for the clarifications. See comment below
>> My proposal is that in addition to an official ballot scan,
>> representatives from competing campaigns and/or parties would be able
>> to dumb-scan precinct ballot stacks independently and post their raw
>> data on the web. The raw data is not accumulated, but actually
>> contains a section for each ballot noting which ovals were filled in.
> This is showstopper I think unless you have a solution. You can't
> publish raw ballots. It allows vote selling.

 Marc Baber 
 The Bot Works, Inc. 
 P.O. Box 5008        Phone: 541-485-8446
 Eugene, OR 97405     FAX:   541-485-8446

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Received on Sun Dec 31 23:17:07 2006

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