This guy, Tom Scott of Computerphile, is right on the money in every respect, when it comes to electronic voting —- be it via touch-screen computers, paper ballot optical-scan systems or, God forbid, Internet Voting. If I was British, and younger, and better looking, and smarter, this would be me…
After almost 11 years at this, it’s great to see that at least a few folks are finally getting it. While many understand some of the problems of e-voting, too many still think those probs can be solved with “paper trails” or “open source systems” or Vote-by-Mail or, somehow, even Internet Voting (via phone, tablet or elsewhere). Scott clearly understands, and smartly explains in the short video above, why the problems of electronic voting and tabulating cannot be solved by any of those methods, no matter how much many otherwise well-intentioned folks may wish they could be.
Scott starts off by citing the extraordinary failure of Gov. Chris Christie’s emergency Internet Voting scheme, hurriedly (and disastrously) implemented in 2012 in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Beyond that, he goes on to make a number of spot-on points, though all of them are predicated on one key notion that, while it may still be true in Great Britain, is becoming more and more of a distant memory in the U.S. every day: An election where everyone in the public is allowed to observe the removal of hand-marked paper ballots from the ballot box, and watch them being counted right then and there, is the most secure and “trustworthy” election possible —- at least based on hundreds of years of vote counting in democracies…
As mentioned, that point is becoming a distant memory in the U.S. For evidence, see the recent “recount” of the last U.S. House race to be called from the November 4th election, between Martha McSally (R) and the incumbent Rep. Ron Barber (D) in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District. Aside from the electronic vote-counting irregularities in the race, the contest, which originally ended with a margin of less than one-tenth of one percent, was recently “recounted” by the same computer optical-scan systems that tallied the hand-marked paper ballots in the first place (either correctly or incorrectly —- nobody can know for certain without an actual public hand-count of those ballots). In addition to using the same computer systems to tally the ballots again in the “recount”, the process itself was also done largely in secret. (The final results were revealed by a state judge last week, with the Republican who was said to have won the initial tally by 161 votes declared as the winner of the “recount” by 167 votes out of some 220,000 cast. Sadly, there is little reason for voters to have confidence that those final results reflect the actual will of voters in AZ-2, since the hand-marked paper ballots cast in the district were never tallied, publicly or otherwise, by actual human beings.)
With the hard fact about the necessity of public counting in mind —- what we describe as “Democracy’s Gold Standard” around here —- Computerphile’s Scott goes on to note these other very important points (among others):
• There is no reason to simply “trust” anybody or anything when it comes to elections. “Trust” has no place in democracy or vote counting.
• “OPEN SOURCE” USED WITH ELECTRONIC VOTING AND TALLYING SYSTEMS IS NOT A SOLUTION!
• When it comes to the madness of Internet Voting, as Scott explains: “It is a terrible idea, and if a government ever promises to use it, hope they don’t manage to use it before you get a chance to vote them out.”
If I could hire this guy to take over The BRAD BLOG, I would. He’s 100% on the money on these points and, because he’s British, he sounds way smarter than I do when he shouts about them.