Democrats Need to Mandate Paper Ballots

Preventing things like voter suppression via caging obviously must be a priority for Democrats if they are able to take back power*, another issue should be mandating paper ballots, whether they are scanned and audited or counted by hand (hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public–’HMPBCP’). Not only have electronic voting systems yielded statistically implausible results (and, oddly enough, Republicans who benefited from those results haven’t wanted to check the results), but we have recent results where it’s clear something went very, very wrong with the electronic voting because there was a paper trait (and, oddly enough again, it hurt the Democrat**…).

In a good post about the foolish shift in Los Angeles County to electronic voting, Lambert Strether lays out why e-voting (or whatever trendy term is used) is really bad (boldface mine):

Digital systems can never be shown not to have bugs. As Computer Science Elder God Edgers Dijkstra wrote: “Program testing can be used to show the presence of bugs, but never to show their absence!” Many bugs in many important programs persist for years before they are discovered. A list would include Flash in IE6 (persisted 12 years), OpenSSL (15 years), LZO data compression (18 years), and bash (25 years). None of these examples are outlier programs or trivial; they are all used by millions, essential to enterprises, networks, etc. Each of these bugs is an insecurity waiting to happen. And that’s before we get to Trojan Horses, which are bugs introduced deliberately by a developer for purposes of their own. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that any voting system decision maker who advocates electronic voting is doing so for reasons other than security, given that HMPBCP is available, which amounts to saying that such a decision maker regards a certain amount of exploited bugs — election fraud — as acceptable.

Now, of course we all use programs all the time: We have programs to turn on our lightbulbs, call cabs, download pr0n, etc. I’m using a program now to write this post! However, if we put voting machine software on the same plane as commercial software, we’re arguing that a central-to-mission function of democracy — the vote — is on the same plane as the very convenient ability to check the contents of our refrigerator from our cellphone. Lest I be thought curmudgeonly in this, recall the example of Bolivia, where one reason the vote was challenged was the use of an unauthorized server for data transmission of the count. Contrast that with the recent vote in Hong Kong, where there were many images of people marking paper ballots, and of people counting them, in public (in fact, of people demanding to be let in to observe). Imagine if electronic systems had been used: First, the Mainland would have had every incentive to have compromised the software, and might well have done so successfully; second, electronic systems, because they are always buggy, are always open to challenge. The fallout could have been extremely ugly at the geopolitical level. Nor would the people’s will have been respected.

That second paragraph is key. It is very likely that the presidential election will be decided by a small number of votes in several states. If Democrats win the presidential popular vote but lose these battleground states again, and if there are irregularities that can’t be verified with a paper trail, then that might be enough to make even your typical milquetoast Democratic voter angry enough to do something. It would definitely delegitimize the election. While Republicans don’t have an interest in this (though they should, given the results of the 2008 and 2012 Republican primaries)–after all, assuming Democrats would mount a weak response, if any, is probably a safe assumption, Democrats have a vested interest in this, and should require all federal elections have a paper trail and that trail is randomly audited.

*Of course, since Democrats are the Stupidest Political Party in Recorded History™, who knows what they’ll do?

**In all seriousness, I haven’t found a single case where the Republican, in a general election, has been harmed by this.

This entry was posted in Democrats, Voting. Bookmark the permalink.