Ever since the American political disaster known as the year 2000 (who knew the real Y2K glitch would be in a voting booth at the end of the year instead of everywhere at the beginning?), I’ve been a staunch advocate for public-record balloting. I’m not really a believer in democracy and I’m certainly no fan of the plutocratic republic we’ve assembled in modern America. But if the experiment is to have any value or worth, it absolutely demands public-record balloting at this juncture in history.
What 2000 taught us is that the only time any given individual vote may actually count (because things are close enough to be decided by a handful of votes) is the only time that we can be absolutely certain that randomly selected votes will not count or be counted at all. Thus the absolutely fundamental foundational principle of the most avidly cherished right in American society is bunk. Every vote counts? More like “only landslides count” or “if you’re beating the margin of error, your majority vote counts”.
Somehow this wasn’t as disheartening to the rest of the country as it was to me – and I didn’t even vote in 2000! (I didn’t vote until the seven-year statute of limitations on prosecution for my non-registration for the Selective Service [SS] had lapsed, being an actual believer in social contract theory… I really wanted to vote for Nader, but being moral is often about suspending one’s wants for what’s right.) The rest of the country got really upset about Supreme Court decisions and started casting aspersions on computers and all sorts of efficient technology. But no one had a plan to, y’know, do something to fix the problem. So much for the power of politics to change the world.
The problem with every method of “fixing” the voting process in America is that they are all still subject to fixing. As in, the fix is in. No matter what system you use to vote today, be it carving into stone tablet, the absolutely obnoxious Alameda County “fill in the arrow”, a butterfly ballot, hanging chads, computer, or other, you get to leave the polling station with absolutely 0% confidence that your vote counted. It could be lost, stolen, or damaged, and the country is not responsible. It could be miscounted, double-counted, not counted. Why so many people trust an overtired biased individual volunteer who is probably pushing 75 more than a computer is beyond me. But both of these systems are flawed flawed flawed. There is only one foolproof solution: public-record ballot.
Here’s how it would work:
1. You go to your polling place and vote on a computer.
2. The computer auto-submits your vote to the main database, attached to your personal information.
3. The computer prints out an official and detailed voting card with all of your selections.
4. Before you leave the polling place, you double-check every single one of your selections on the printed card.
5. If there is an error (or you have changed your mind at the last second), you go see a polling station attendant who takes your card, calls up your record in the database on a voting computer, and shreds your old card.
6. You make whatever changes you like.
7. You get a new card.
8. Repeat steps 4-7 as necessary (though you might want to cap the number of re-do’s at 5 or something, just to prevent deliberate fraud-clogging of the system to lengthen lines and deter turnout).
9. Upon leaving the polling place with your accurate, actual card of selections, you get the card stamped by the person at the exit, indicating that this is an official, final ballot that counts.
10. You go home and watch election returns with newly buoyed confidence.
11. When polls report, records of the vote, line by line, with name of voter and selections, are published online. They are also printed in the next day’s newspaper and available at the library.
12. Through any of these public media, you go double-check that your vote was accurately counted.
13. If there is any discrepancy between the vote printed and your actual vote (on your official card), you have 60 days to go to one of several public offices and indicate this problem. If the vote doesn’t match what’s on your card, they are legally obligated to change it and update the record.
14. 60 days after the election, final results are certified and republished.
The only reasons we don’t enact the 14 steps above are (a) tradition and (b) arguments about reprisal and punishment for votes.
Tradition is stupid.
Reprisal and punishment arguments are sorely outdated. Do you know what is currently a matter of public record with regards to voting? If you’ve ever donated money to a candidate, that is publicly available and searchable information. These days, trust me, donating $100 to a candidate is a much more powerful and effective support of them than voting for them. Millions of people donate billions of dollars to candidates and there is no documented instance of reprisal for this behavior. Hm.
Also publicly disseminated is information about whether or not you voted (probably more likely to spur reprisal in today’s era than who one voted for), what your party registration is (which is sadly a pretty darn good predictor of who you’ll vote for anyway), and where to knock on your door to talk to you about these things.
And yet, no society of mass-reprisal for donations, voting registration and frequency, etc. Do we really think that people who aren’t intimidated out of donating money to candidates are going to be intimidated out of voting for who they want? (Also, do we really think people could possibly be more sheepy in their voting tendencies in this country anyway?)
It makes you wonder what the real reasons are for us not having public-record balloting.
So, to do my very small part for this cause, I’m going to print my selections below for the whole world to critique, search, and so forth. I doubt anyone will agree with all of them, and I want to hear about it. Putting one’s name behind one’s vote adds a layer of conviction and openness to discussion that we often currently lack in our society as well. It spurs more debate, more discourse, more thought. All things which the same people who want us to privately vote and go quietly home don’t want.
It’s insidious, isn’t it? Our system is most trapped by the very “safeguard” that is seen as the most obvious and important element of the system itself. You can never see the prison from the inside, especially when all the propaganda tells you it’s those bars that are the only thing keeping you safe, secure, happy, well fed.
Anyway, to the ballot. Sadly, while this is what I will fill in with my ridiculous ballpoint ink arrows in about an hour, I have absolutely no confidence that these votes will be counted on anything but this blog. And at least half as much because of chance and human or mechanical error as because of nefarious dealings. Imagine if we did bank deposits this way… no receipts, no double-checking or verifying, no place to ensure that what you intended was what came out. Just trust… and one day, after millions of deposits, your card doesn’t work and you’re broke for no reason. Imagine we did anything the way we handle voting! And this is supposed to be the most important thing we do.
Storey Clayton’s 2008 General Election Ballot:
United States of America Offices
President/Vice President: Ralph Nader/Matt Gonzalez (Peace & Freedom)
Representative, CA 9th District: [no vote – protesting Barbara Lee’s support of the bailout]
State Senator, 9th District: Marsha Feinland (Peace & Freedom)
State Assembly, 14th District: (write-in) Tony Thurmond
Superior Court Judge, Office #9: Dennis Hayashi
Prop 1A (High-Speed Rail): Yes
Prop 2 (Farm Animal Rights): Yes
Prop 3 (Children’s Hospital Bond): No
Prop 4 (Parental Notification for Minor Abortion): Yes
Prop 5 (Rehabilitation Instead of Jail for Non-Violent Drug Crimes): Yes
Prop 6 (Increased Law Enforcement for Gang Crimes): No
Prop 7 (Renewable Energy Standards): No
Prop 8 (Banning Gay Marriage): No
Prop 9 (Victim’s Rights): No
Prop 10 (Bonds for Natural Gas Cars): No
Prop 11 (Redistricting): Yes
Prop 12 (Bonds for Veterans): No
AC Transit District Director at Large: Joyce Roy
East Bay Regional Park District Director, Ward 1: Norman La Force
Prop VV (Expanding Public Transit): Yes
Prop WW (East Bay Regional Parks Bonds): Yes
Mayor: (write-in) Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi
City Council, District 4: Jesse Arreguin
Rent Stabilization Board: Judy E. Shelton, Jack Harrison, Nicole Drake, Igor Tregub, Jesse Townley
School Directors: John T. Selawsky, Beatriz Leyva-Cutler
Prop FF (Library Bonds): Yes
Prop GG (Fire, EMS, Disaster Response Bonds): Yes
Prop HH (Confirming Spending Over Gann Limit): Yes
Prop II (3 Years After Census to Adjust Districts): Yes
Prop JJ (Medical Marijuana Dispensaries): [no vote]
Prop KK (Requiring Specific Voter Approval Before Expanding Public Transit): No
Prop LL (Repealing Landmark Preservation): No