Let’s All Drive Putin Crazy, and Vote With Hand-Marked Paper Ballots, Counted by Hand in Public!

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

As our Bataan Death March toward Tuesday, November 8 continues — I won’t say progresses — we may find a measure of relief if we focus not on electoral outcomes, but on other lessons we can draw from the experience. In this post, I want to focus on the balloting systems we use in this country, which are so rickety and fraud-prone that each (major party) candidate is laying the groundwork to use charges of fraud to undermine the legitimacy of the other’s election come voting day. Well, any balloting system capable of producing — or even serving as a pretext for — a legitimacy crisis is, to say the least, problematic (except, perhaps, to whoever’s left standing after the crisis resolves itself, if anyone is). So, in this post I’ll look (again) at our election system, then look at how the candidates are preparing the ground for a legitimacy crisis, and finally consider the pros and cons of hand-marked paper ballots, counted in public. Such a system wouldn’t prevent a legitimacy crisis, which could happen for any number of reasons, but at least the country could be sure which Presidential candidate we voted for, and so a crisis wouldn’t happen for that reason.[1]

Our Rickety, Fraud-Prone Election System

Here’s the hair-not-on-fire conventional wisdom on election systems in general. From the International Foundation for Electoral Systems on legitimacy crises as a tool for political actors to gain power:

In multiple countries, we have witnessed the emergence of a campaign strategy whereby candidates, often supported behind the scenes by international communications strategists, cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process and the institutions that manage it during the pre-election period, initiate post-election litigation challenging the results and take advantage of vulnerabilities in the process to derail or establish lasting doubts about the legitimacy of the outcome.

But it can’t happen here:

This challenge to electoral integrity is particularly acute in developing democracies, where legal frameworks are often ambiguous, processes may be less resilient to manipulation and a climate of insecurity, impunity and unaccountability may exist.

By IFES standards, then, the United States is a “developing democracy,” since every single one of the characteristics they list applies to us. In Florida 2000, we had the voter roll cleansing debacle followed by Bush v. Gore; in Ohio 2004, we saw every trick in the book used (including what looked rather like a man-in-the-middle-attack on tabulation machines); in the Democratic Texas primary in 2008, we have prima facie evidence of caucus fraud; and in Ohio 2012, we have body language from Karl Rove, along with some technical evidence, that a fraudulent scheme was in play, but misfired (or possibly was foiled by Anonymous, or less possibly by a lawsuit filed by activists). This list shows, if it needed showing, that our election system is not “resilient to manipulation” at all. We might as well be a developing country, and call in UN observers.

This is just a mess. Now, to some extent the chaos protects us, because there’s no single vulnerable spot for evil-doers to attack:

One of the principal criticisms of the American election system is the topsy-turvy and sometimes inconsistent mix of federal, state, and local laws and regulations that govern the voting process in the more than 10,000 election districts around the country. But this very decentralization is actually the best bulwark against any large-scale, or even statewide, effort to skew the outcome.

Nevertheless, as the examples above show, it’s clearly possible for either major party to swing a close presidential primary or general election in the United States through election fraud in a few key districts in a few key states. Odds are, in fact, that each party has already done so.

Potential Legitimacy Crisis in 2016

Before we look at what the two (major) campaigns are doing, let’s glance at two straws in the wind. First, the election fraud issue spookily popped up in May 2016[3], with this Bloomberg article, with this piece of hagiography on one Andrés Sepúlveda:

How to Hack an Election

Andrés Sepúlveda rigged elections throughout Latin America for almost a decade. He tells his story for the first time.

For eight years, Sepúlveda, now 31, says he traveled the continent rigging major political campaigns. Sepúlveda’s career began in 2005, and his first jobs were small—mostly defacing campaign websites and breaking into opponents’ donor databases. Within a few years he was assembling teams that spied, stole, and smeared on behalf of presidential campaigns across Latin America. He wasn’t cheap, but his services were extensive. For $12,000 a month, a customer hired a crew that could hack smartphones, spoof and clone Web pages, and send mass e-mails and texts. The premium package, at $20,000 a month, also included a full range of digital interception, attack, decryption, and defense. The jobs were carefully laundered through layers of middlemen and consultants. Sepúlveda says many of the candidates he helped might not even have known about his role; he says he met only a few.His teams worked on presidential elections in Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Venezuela. Campaigns

Usually, he says, he was on the payroll of Juan José Rendón, a Miami-based political consultant who’s been called the Karl Rove of Latin America.

Now, when you read this story, I’m sure you thought, just as I thought, “Who’s hired this guy for campaign 2016? Trump, or Clinton?” Bloomberg is equivocal:

Last year, based on anonymous sources, the Colombian media reported that Rendón was working for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Rendón calls the reports untrue. The campaign did approach him, he says, but he turned them down because he dislikes Trump. “To my knowledge we are not familiar with this individual,” says Trump’s spokeswoman, Hope Hicks. “I have never heard of him, and the same goes for other senior staff members.” But Rendón says he’s in talks with another leading U.S. presidential campaign—he wouldn’t say which—to begin working for it once the primaries wrap up and the general election begins.

Nothing can be inferred, then, since “based on anonymous sources” could well mean “planted by David Brock.” But that Sepúlveda’s kind of expertise is out there… And not used by anybody, would seem to go against the idea of a phishing equilibrium. Eh?

Second, election 2016 may not be settled, as was election 2000, with a Bush v. Gore-style decision (for those who came in late). IFES writes:

Looking at the electoral dispute resolution system, the U.S. legal system is in a uniquely vulnerable position due to the current 4-4 liberal-conservative split on the Supreme Court. If a candidate refuses to accept the election results for whatever reason, including claims of “rigging,” he or she will need to file cases in each state in which the results are contested. Given recent discourse on aging voting technology, voter-identification challenges and the vulnerability of mail-in ballots, this kind of litigation seems inevitable.

That could get ugly.

And speaking of ugly, let’s look at the two campaigns. First, Trump:

Donald Trump has taken to saying it over and over again: that the November election is “going to be rigged,” that “crooked Hillary” and her scheming accomplices will somehow manage to steal a victory that should rightfully be his. He has said this in many ways, about the election nationwide and about the election in specific places. As he told his supporters at a recent rally in Altoona, “The only way we can lose . . . is if cheating goes on.”

(The problemss with dismissing Trump’s charges on a priori grounds are that fact, presidential elections have been rigged, as we have shown, and that “Vote for the crook! It’s important!” has been used by some Clinton supporters as a rationale for voting for her. The real reason Trump’s charges are wrong in detail, even if correct directionally, are that he claims elections are stolen through voter fraud:

Trump said law enforcement and his supporters have to be on the lookout for voter fraud to keep Trump from getting “cheated out of a win. “Without voter ID there’s no way you’re going to be able to check in properly,” [Trump] said.

This is as good a time as any to distinguish election fraud, where insider political actors manipulate the result, from voter fraud where people vote who have no right to vote cast a ballot. Trump is charging the latter, but there is no evidence of significant, systemic voter fraud. (On the other hand, there is evidence that voter ID requirements disenfranchise Democrat voters, a topic for another day[3].)

Trump, then is boldly lying outright. Democrat dis- and misinformation, as usual, takes a subtler and more complicated form. Harry Reid:

Democrats in Congress, including party Senate leader Harry Reid, asked the FBI to investigate concerns that the Russian government may be attempting to undermine the U.S. presidential election through cyber attacks that could include tampering with voting results.

“The prospect of a hostile government actively seeking to undermine our free and fair elections represents one of the gravest threats to our democracy since the Cold War,” Reid said in a letter to FBI Director James Comey.

Reid’s letter, dated Saturday, was first obtained by The New York Times and shared on its website on Monday.

It was followed on Tuesday by a letter from four Democrats asking Comey to assess whether campaign officials working for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump may be colluding with Russian interests to carry out recent hacks against the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in order to “interfere with the U.S. presidential election.”

Whatever. Let’s just look at one example of follow-on coverage of Reid — that is, of the Democrat nomenklatura‘s — charges. From McClatchy:

The Russian internet nodes used to hack into voting systems in Illinois and Arizona were also used in recent penetrations of Turkey’s ruling party, the Ukrainian Parliament and a political party in Germany, a U.S. cybersecurity firm said Friday.

Forensic analyses of the nodes led ThreatConnect to determine that some of the same nodes had been used for hosting a Russian cybercrime market and were the source of a takedown of the Ukrainian power grid in 2015, the company said

One particular node, it said, was the source of digital penetration “targeting Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, Ukrainian Parliament and German Freedom Party figures from March-August 2016 that fits a known Russian targeting focus and modus operandi.”

The attacks are “more suggestive of state-backed rather than criminally motivated activity, although we are unable to assess which actor or group might be behind the attacks based on the current evidence,” the firm said.

Read that carefully. First, if this were the Street, it would be obvious the “cybersecurity” firm is talking its book and fishing for clients (and “cyber” is an excellent bullshit tell. The guys and gals with beards and ponytails who cast The Great HTTP Runes don’t use that word). Second, and all these stories are like this, the qualifications paragraph follows the scare paragraph, and invariably totally undermines it. I mean, “we are unable to assess which actor or group might be behind the attacks based on the current evidence.” So if you don’t know that, what do you know? Nothing.

Anyhow, after the Democrats beat the Putin war drums, Jeh Johnson, Obama’s choice for head of the Department of Homeland Security jumped in:

In the wake of hacks that infiltrated Democratic campaign computer systems[4], Mr. Johnson said he was conducting high-level discussions about “election cybersecurity,” a vastly complex effort given that there are 9,000 jurisdictions in the United States that have a hand in carrying out the balloting, many of them with different ways of collecting, tallying and reporting votes.

“We should carefully consider whether our election system, our election process is critical infrastructure, like the financial sector, like the power grid,” Mr. Johnson told reporters in Washington. “There’s a vital national interest in our electoral process.”

A national commission created as part of a voting overhaul enacted in 2002 in response to the controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential election “raised the bar” on security, Mr. Johnson said. “But there is more to do,” he added. “The nature of cyberthreats has evolved.”

(“More to do” is a Clinton catchphrase; see here, here, and here. To translate, “more to do” means more walking around money for insiders and an ever-receding horizon of actual accomplishment. Ka-ching.)

To sum up the state of play: We have both candidates preparing their supporters for charges that the election results are illegitimate, we have a Supreme Court that is unlikely to be able to arbitrate the result, and we have the Department of Homeland Security proposing to legitimate the electoral system by putting it under the control of the executive branch of the Federal government (and hence under a political appointee). It’s hard to see how this ends well. If only we had an alternative! If only there were a simple, rugged, and proven system we could adopt!

Advantages and Disadvantages of Paper Ballots

As it turns out, there is such a system: hand-marked paper ballots, counted by hand in public.[5] These systems are far more likely to produce legitimate results than any electronic system, and they have been proven all over the world. These systems are the international standard for voting; see Naked Capitalism here for an extensive discussion with examples. To Jerri-Lynn’s example of India last week, I will add two more. First, the UK:

The lesson of Britain’s ‘Brexit’ referendum, like the hotly contested presidential election I witnessed and covered in Taiwan in 2004, both of which contests were conducted using paper ballots, and the latter which was subjected to a recount that returned an almost identical result after tons of paper and millions of ballots were painstakingly inspected and hand-counted all over again, is that democracy can only work if voting is scrupulously honest and absolutely verifiable. On both those counts the US fails miserably, meaning that besides all the other problems that make American democracy a joke — the grotesquely biased (and inane) media coverage, the widespread voter apathy and ignorance, a stultifying two-party political system that limits candidate choices to two virtually identical candidates and to two political positions that only differ in meaningless, but emotionally powerful ways, and a campaign-funding system that in reality is nothing but legalized bribery — American voters cannot really expect their votes to be honestly counted in the end.

Second, Chile:

We use the pencil & paper tech in Chile too, and fraud is not easy. I was a volunteer for Lagos in the last election, and personally counted each vote at my voting table before signing off the official vote tally (along with the other candidate’s volunteer and the randomly selected people in charge of the table). I then informed my party of the results and they double-checked it when the offical results came out. The vote boxes were sealed and stamped, and can be re-opened for a recount. Each person is assigned to one specific table, and the total number of votes in a box have to match the amount of people assigned to it. Counting it took about an hour. If any votes were in doubt, the other candidate’s volunteer and me discussed and agreed on what it said. How is fraud easy?

The main advantage of hand-marked paper ballots, counted by hand in public is that you get a reliable count perceived as legitimate:

For those who don’t understand how fully observable, precinct-based, Election Night hand-counting of hand-marked paper ballots works, one need look no further than those polling places in New Hampshire where the entire process is a matter of civic pride and community participation. We are not speaking about the centralized, behind-closed-doors, party-boss-counted paper ballots of the days of Boss Daley in Chicago or Landslide Lyndon in Texas.

In short, after polls close, a new, bi-partisan counting crew is typically brought in to relieve tired poll workers at each precinct. Each precinct’s crew counts its own ballots in carefully overseen, publicly observed groups of four – two calling out every vote, two marking each one down – as the citizenry watches, video tapes, and otherwise assures the process is on the up and up. The results are posted publicly before ballots are moved anywhere. They are never out of public oversight until the counting has been completed, which is usually done by enough counting groups to be completed before midnight on Election Night (often before some machine-counted precincts have finished!) It’s a very difficult system to game – at least without being easily caught.

Sounds hard to hack, no? Especially by evil Russkis?

To be fair, let’s consider the disadvantages. A little hysteria from Richard Clarke:

Beyond this 60-day crash to secure our democracy, when this election is over, Congress and the new president need to establish high security standards for the election of federal officials and come up with the money to meet those standards. No Russian hackers or anyone else should be able to undermine the basis of our democracy by cyber election fraud.

Let me translate that: Paper ballots mean no subsidy to our bloated and incompetent IT sector. (Note that Clarke erases simple, rugged, and proven paper ballots entirely, rather like an ObamaCare advocate erasing simple, rugged, and proven single payer.)

A second disadvantage is that DHS will not be able to expand its budget and bureaucratic reach by providing “security” for our democracy. (The habits of thought here are also rather like ObamaCare advocacy, in that Johnson and Clarke are advocating complicated and expensive fixes for a system, like health care delivered through the private health insurance system, that shouldn’t exist in the first place.)

A third disadvantage is that you would have to print and store the paper ballots:

The disadvantages to a paper ballot would be the cost to produce, transport, store, and dispose of used and unused ballots. Depending on quantity, ballots cost from 25 cents to 31 cents each. The orders are delivered on pallets that weigh thousands of pounds per election. Once the election is completed, [paper] ballots are stored for 22 months. With the approval of the Florida Department of State, voted ballots are securely shredded and disposed of.

So, let me take a moment to break out my calculator: There are 146,311,000 registered voters, so 146,311,000. * $0.31 = $45,356,410.00. I think the country that built the F-35 can handle it[5].

How can any of these disadvantages outweig the advantages of being certain that elected officials are legitimately elected?


I don’t agree with the Archdruid on everything, but I think on the notion of “progress” he get it absolutely right:

I kept walking. Everything I saw around me—the horsedrawn cabs, the streetcars, the comfortable and attractive brick buildings, the clothing on the people—had been quarried out of the past and refitted for use in the present, because they worked better than the alternatives. … I’d been in the middle of the groupthink that made progress look like the only option even when progress was half a century into negative returns. Everyone I knew was well aware that “newer” had stopped meaning “better” a long time ago, that every upgrade meant more problems and fewer benefits, that the latest must-have technologies did less and cost more than the last round, but nobody seemed to be able to draw the obvious conclusion.

“Every” upgrade? Probably not. I mean, I don’t want go back to Macintosh System 7 even if the current crop of swipers and tappers at Apple is gradually crapifying OS X. That said, on elections, “progress” to more IT, more Homeland Security agents, more fearmongering just isn’t a good idea. We should go back to what we know works: Hand-marked paper ballots, counted by hand in public. That won’t help us avoid a legitimacy crisis this year; only the parties pulling back from the brink can do that. But paper ballots will prevent a legitimacy crisis in the future; at least one caused by election fraud. If you don’t want rigged elections, that is the way to go.


[1] Obviously, the headline is a joke. I blame Putin’s weather controllers for parking Hermine off the East Coast, but I think the Democrat charges that Putin is hacking our electoral system are overheated and tendentious (although, to be fair, they do help Clinton to gin up a war scare, kick the left and, and expose that wily, canny ex-KGB operative’s cunning plan to use a mentally unstable squillionaire who can’t keep to a script as a Russian agent of influence). Kidding!

[2] I’m not including a discussion of irregularities in the 2016 Democrat primaries to keep it simple.

[3] That’s why the Democrat party considers voter registration a 24/7/365 core party function, and operates voter registration drives year round, including a program to get IDs for people who need them in voter ID states. Oh, wait….

[4] Voter rolls, not voting systems.

[5] The Federal Election Commission defines paper ballots this way:

Paper Ballots

A Paper ballot systems employs uniform official ballots of various stock weight on which the names of all candidates and issues are printed. Voters record their choices, in private, by marking the boxes next to the candidate or issue choice they select and drop the voted ballot in a sealed ballot box./p>

This paper ballot system was first adopted in the Australian state of Victoria in 1856, and in the remaining Australian states over the next several years. The paper ballot system thereafter became known as the “Australian ballot.” New York became the first American State to adopt the paper ballot for statewide elections in 1889./p>

As of 1996, paper ballots were still used by 1.7% of the registered voters in the United States. They are used as the primary voting system in small communities and rural areas, and quite often for absentee balloting in other jurisdictions.

It’s unfortunate that the SEC, while giving information on paper stock, omits to mention that the ballots should also be counted by hand in public.

[6] There is also the argument that ballots can get complex, because of ballot initiatives, referenda, etc. That strikes me as an implementation detail.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Vatch

    Heh. Funny headline — I didn’t need to read your footnote to know that you were joking about Putin. Of course it is American billionaire oligarchs and the establishment political leaders whom they own who would be driven crazy by fair and honest elections with paper ballots.

  2. EndOfTheWorld

    It’s a well-known fact that hackers can hack anything. Gone are the days when the announcement that the CIA or the Defense Dept. had been hacked would elicit surprise. So yeah, the sooner the better on the paper ballots.

    1. Furzy

      Let’s drive all the Dems and Reptiles and Russkies crazy,…EVERYONE should WRITE IN Bernie Sanders for President…!! now that would be progress….

      1. Russell

        I have read that in many states write ins are simply thrown out. Is that true?
        I have asked voters to vote now as Elector post card voters.
        Biden is the certifier of the votes along with the Archivist.
        My request of my followers is not happening as far as I know.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          I don’t know if write-ins are thrown out but if you write in your vote on a ballot counted by a machine, it is doubtful that the actual person you voted for will be tallied.

          My state uses paper ballots counted by optical scanners and the machine spits out a tape with the totals afterward. The tape is used for the official tally unless the total is close enough to trigger a recount. I believe the initial recount would be done by machine as well although I’m not 100% sure.

          The only way someone is going to see your write in vote for Mickey Mouse is in the unlikely event that someone actually has to hand count these ballots due to a recount being triggered by a close election.

          And if I were rigging an election, I’d be sure to make sure my candidate won by enough not to trigger a recount.

  3. pretzelattack

    putin has hacked nc! omg. only a communist supports paper ballots, to cast doubt on our precious american dnc.

  4. TarheelDem

    The logistics of distributing 150 milllion paper ballots, printed with 192,480 different ballot lists to those 192,480 precincts locations (some precincts have multiple locations) is not trivial.

    A clear plastic box in most countries shows that the box has not been prestuffed. People know how to fold ballots to hide their votes.

    Records of who came to vote must be kept separate from the actual ballot and there must not be a way of associating a ballot with personal identification. Retribution and all that.

    And a rereading of Frank Kent, The Great Game of Politics is in order.

    Parties love to know that the folks they got out the vote for actually voted for their ticket. Kent describes all the ways that the urban machines of the 1920s did it.

    1. David

      “Records of who came to vote must be kept separate from the actual ballot and there must not be a way of associating a ballot with personal identification. Retribution and all that”

      Our electronic register of voters verifies the voter on the voter roll and actually the ballot is then printed out by a laser printer directly from this process if the correct identification is presented. There is no attempt to disassociate the identification of the voter from the ballot printing. The web sites for electronic rolls describe a different process.

  5. Pat

    Beyond the rentier aspect of having to produce machines to read the ballots and produce software to read the ballots every election, there is a larger reason why most politicians and our corporate overlords will not want to enact an election system with the least amount of likelihood of being hacked – they want the option to hack it.
    Hell it has been being done for the last twelve years…

    1. TheCatSaid

      It goes back more than 12 years, and has been richly documented.

      A friend in the UK told me that in 1998 he was asked by the Isle of Wight to submit a tender for an electronic voting system. He developed a full system including voter registration database. The system he developed could not be hacked–so they turned it down.

      1. Jolly Tommo

        Er..1) the IoW is not an administrative district but for all practical purposes is part of Hampshire, 2) we have a uniform system of voting across the UK so there’d have been no point in such a tender being issued.

        To my knowledge, I could be wrong, it has never been suggested that we should use anything other than hand marked, hand counted, paper based ballots in the UK. I think there would be complete uproar if a serious attempt was made to introduce electronic voting.

        1. Jolly Tommo

          Actually, turns out I’m wrong on 1) or at best only half-right. IoW is a separate county but some public services e.g. police are delivered jointly with Hampshire.

        2. TheCatSaid

          I didn’t get the impression from my friend that this was public knowledge. He was asked or invited to present something, he did all the development work at his own cost to develop something secure (not using conventional technology), then he was subsequently told privately that it was not considered because it couldn’t be hacked. I don’t know the origin of the request.

  6. subgenius

    Is it worth the effort to build a better ballot system (or reinstitute a prior release), when the entire system is so broke it needs simply to be put out of its misery?

    2 party ‘democracy’ is not a democracy. It is rigged WAY before you get to the actual public circus.

    It is unwise to hand power to those that seek it.

    Don’t vote, it only encourages them.

    1. Bev

      See last part of comment for additional important links from Election Justice USA, and Bev Harris:

      Hand counted paper ballots are counted immediately after an election and results are knowable the same night. It is the cheapest, fastest, most accurate evidence which we should adopt now, though we still need to address Registration Voter Rolls being purged, long lines, etc. As Greg Palast says, if your car is stolen, it is not car suppression. When your vote is stolen, it is stolen not suppressed.

      Get Rid of All Voting Machines:
      Fraction Magic – Part 6: Execution Capacity
      By Bev Harris June 14, 2016
      6 – Middlemen, Inside Access and Manipulation –

      I eagerly await Bev’s upcoming chapters:

      Part 7: Whodunnit – coming –

      Part 8: Solutions and Mitigations – coming –


      Election Justice USA is declaring an #ElectionAction on 9/27/16 calling for an end to #ElectionFraud

      lulu Fries’dat @luluFriesdat Aug 31
      On right now with @AlisonRoseLevy – just dicussed fractionalized voting – and announced the #ElectionAction on 9//27 to support #HCPB


        1. Bev

          Thank you to TheCatSaid from The Dog Howled for that working link to the radio interview. Very appreciated.

    2. TheCatSaid

      Thanks for that link to the Election Justice ESA report’s Executive Summary. The full 100-page report in pdf format is here.

  7. Lyle

    There is a system in use in many counties that accomplishes this: it is the mark and sense system, where the ballot looks like a standardized test and you use a pencil to fill in the blobs next to your choices. It is then read by a reader and deposited in the ballot box. If there are doubts on the readers accuracy the ballots can be hand counted likley by sorting and counting. Just get rid of the actual electronic devices except perhaps for one for handicaped folks, which instead of keeping its own count would print out a ballot. filled in.

    1. TheCatSaid

      Uh, no. “If there are doubts on the readers accuracy” is a loophole so big you could fly a space station through it.

      1) The laws/rules/regulations governing recounts and audits are different in every state/local area;

      2) They’re written in such a way that even when there are paper records of some kind it makes it legally, bureaucratically, or financially impossible to access them–and certainly not in time to impact official results;

      3) there are LOTS of ways to fiddle with the technology that reads ballots (ranging from the exact type of pen provided to voters; poor chain of custody of the ballots leading to ballot alteration such as votes being whited out or covered with a white sticker–this has been documented on video and with ballot photographs–in Ohio 2004 and in the recent CA 2016 primary election);

      4) the fact that something has happened that’s illegal or broke an election rule, even when proven (e.g. Ohio 2004 stolen presidential election documented by Richard Hayes Phillips), does not result in a remedy that would correct election results;

      I could go on and on but I’ll stop here. There are well-documented problems with any technology used to count paper ballots. There are many ways to fiddle the machines.

      The opportunities for fraud skyrocket further if the ballots are moved at all prior to counting.

      Lambert’s absolutely correct to emphasize the need for physical ballots, hand-counted in full public view by teams that can cross-check one another, at the voting location, with results announced publicly before the ballots are moved.

      1. Ulysses

        “Lambert’s absolutely correct to emphasize the need for physical ballots, hand-counted in full public view by teams that can cross-check one another, at the voting location, with results announced publicly before the ballots are moved.”

        Yes, and he’s also correct that restoring election integrity will by no means lessen the current legitimacy crisis that engulfs our corporate overlords.

        I fear that at least some factions within the ruling classes would like nothing better than to delegitimize voting for representative government, and all other forms of democratic accountability. They are more than ready to inform the working classes that their input is no longer required. They would welcome an excuse to “suspend elections,” until “order is restored.”

        We had a good taste of this attitude across the pond after the Brexit vote.

        “Without general elections, without unrestrained freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution…in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element.”

        –Rosa Luxemberg

        1. TheCatSaid

          I agree with you. Like you, I’ve heard there are plans to suspend the elections and it rings true with my own observations. Hints are being planted in the MSM.

          We still must face the fact that we have not had legitimate elections in the USA for a long time–or ever, in some locations. This makes a mockery of political analysis, as pundits compare results and develop arcane analyses, based on current & previous fraudulent results.

          Facing reality presents the opportunity of developing better, fairer ways of expressing societal choices.

          I feel strongly that one of the things that needs change (in addition to election system change from the bottom up) is our methodology of “majority wins”. It is the least of all election options. It inherently disenfranchises the most people, and gives results which poorly reflect peoples’ wishes. Peter Emerson is one person who has written effective articles & books comparing different ways of voting. I find ranked preference voting the most practical and appealing; I’ve experienced it on many occasions. The Irish Proportional Representation Single Transferable Vote is also excellent.

          It is unfortunate that so many of the US voting population believe the rubbish we’ve been fed in school & media about the USA being superiorly “democratic”, when the truth is that our choice-making methodologies and indeed all aspects of our election systems are perhaps the worst among supposed democracies.

          Choice-making–both personal and societal–is what demonstrates our ongoing evolution (or lack thereof). How can we become wiser in how we go about this, both personally and in concert? How can we become better informed that there are many other ways than what we’ve been taught in school?

          1. Ulysses

            “I find ranked preference voting the most practical and appealing.”

            Absolutely! This would undoubtedly also be helpful in allowing more than two parties to flourish. :)

            1. TheCatSaid

              Exactly. In fact, ranked preference only works when there are at least three options to choose from.

              Those could be candidates, policy/referendum options–or more mundanely, preferred name of a new organization, proposed holiday/restaurant destinations, etc. I’ve found it useful for all kinds of things. In each case the end result has been a solid reflection of a group’s preferences.

              Key to making it work is that in the case of policy options, the options need to be chosen from the “base” of voters, or a genuinely representative group so that all or the main options are on the list.

              This works great for issues where there is a tendency for polarization. It gives the possibility for nuanced positions.

      2. Dwight

        I agree that optically scanned paper ballots are not the way to go, and it is unfortunate that many experts I hear interviewed are converging on optically scanned paper ballots as the best way to go. However, these experts at least recognize the need for paper ballots that theoretically can be counted, and I presume these paper ballots cost about the same as the hand-counted paper ballots we need. So the cost argument against hand-counted paper ballots goes away once we agree that production and storage of paper ballots is necessary.

        This also applies to the machines that print out a record that has to be stored, though the printout itself might be cheaper. In any case, use of hand-counted paper ballots obviates the need for the costly optical scanner, etc. machines.

        1. TheCatSaid

          Bev Harris has said that an election official insists on using optical scanners, the only way to make it verifiable is to have each ballot scanned and then to immediately make the file containing all the scanned ballot images immediately available to the public.

          Low-tech (hand-counting by the public with multiple observers) is by far the best and simplest option.

  8. norm de plume

    ‘The paper ballot system thereafter became known as the “Australian ballot.”

    Unfortunately, the move to online voting in Australia appears to be bipartisan, after our near fortnight of uncertainty in the recent election.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Not gunna happen now. A coupla weeks ago we had the Australian Census here and instead of having the tried and tested standard paper form delivered to each household and picked up afterwards, they pushed all out for an online site run by IBM.
      It was a total fiasco. The site fell over not long after coming online as millions of Aussies tried to fill out their forms online all at once. Early in the evening they shut down the whole site but still kept on tweeting to people to keep on trying! At 11 they said forget it and go to bed.
      Several weeks later they are still trying to get people to do the census. For the first time the results of a census here may be written off as useless overall. Worst-referendum-ever!
      You can only imagine what would have happened if they had tried an online vote which I think people will now get now. As an aside, trying now to do a Google search on this event as well as a Google News search is turning up zilch. Funny that. It’s like that it has been scrubbed.

        1. sleepy koala

          They trusted IBM. The same company that totally screwed the Health Departments payroll only two years before.

          Paper ballots are the way to go and the cost in printing can be small (even given the increased complexity of the USA election structure) while wages paid are spent in the local economy mostly. Ballot confidence is mighty high and duplicate voting severely suppressed to be not worth the bother.

          Good luck on the voter registration suppression though. It would be simpler to register everyone in a trial State and see what actually happens in terms of the severity of any irregularity. I think it will be a yawn.

          Preferential voting is a fabulous necessity. Go for it.

      1. Skippy

        Made manifold by people constantly refreshing the page.

        Tho there is lots of partisan grumbling about Gov failure, defund it more to make it better or just privatize it for efficiency.

        Disheveled Marsupial…. shades of the Queensland Health Payroll fiasco, thanks IBM, oh yeah the government MBA was advised there was no need to run parallel systems whilst debugging, saved heaps… in not paying correct wages but… the private sector made packet sorta cleaning it up…. barf…

      2. Norm de plume

        No surprise there. What with the heavying re the NBN leaks, this really is a hear no evil govt. All the better to eventually sneak online voting in.
        Though the census snafu is not a good advert, the kite has been flown now and the old Overton window has shifted a smidge. All sorts of dreadful present realities were unthinkable once.

  9. TheCatSaid

    Lambert, great article. Typo alert: “(On the other hand, there is evidence that voter ID requirements disenfranchise Democrat voters, a topic for another day[3].)” that [3] should be [4].

    1. TheCatSaid

      The link to the radio interview with Lulu Fries-Dat discusses this during the second half of the interview. There are quite a few places with experience and good methodology for carrying out hand-counted public counts of paper ballots. The radio interview says they talked to a number of election officials with this experience and they said it would take only 2-3 weeks preparation. (They didn’t mention that some other election officials might need a brain transplant to change their evil ways. That might take a little longer than 3 weeks.)

  10. jo6pac

    But the real world countries are moving away from paper then again we are fast becoming third world passing so fast through 2nd world we missed it.. It should be inter-tubes voting what could go wrong;)

  11. David

    If you want to understand how we value a free and fair election go to the Individual states and look at the penalties for tampering with ballots. From the Statutes in Florida:

    “104.21 Changing electors’ ballots.—Whoever fraudulently changes or attempts to change the vote or ballot of any elector, by which actions such elector is prevented from voting such ballot or from voting such ballot as the elector intended, is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.”

  12. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thank you for your insightful differentiation between election fraud and voting fraud. IMO a publicly monitored and hand-counted paper ballots solution to black-box election fraud is unlikely to be embraced by those who control either of the two legacy political parties. With all the issues that have surfaced publicly over several election cycles, that would have already occurred were there the political will to correct the problems.

    The Brexit vote in the UK was educational to them in terms of their potential loss of power and control if such a paper ballot system were to be implemented. Further, besides limiting legitimacy objections to the outcome of the vote, it would also take an ongoing “divide and conquer” tactic off the table, along with attendant control and party funding implications. Instead, I expect the two legacy parties will ultimately settle on a centralized, federally controlled computerized voting system along the lines of the “Cybersecurity” proposal by the DHS political appointee last week.

      1. TheCatSaid

        Why would they want to include technology experts? Their absence is a feature, not a bug. That’s why we have the wonderful multi-hackable systems we currently have (developed by convicted felons in some cases).

        The state-level secretaries of state know the most about preserving the multiple access to vote hacking and voter registration hacking and all-round election rigging, while giving sound bites about how important it is for us to “trust our elections”. What a scam. If they brought on IT experts it would just be an offering to the confidence fairies.

  13. dk

    Paper ballots mean no subsidy to our bloated and incompetent IT sector.

    A second disadvantage is that DHS will not be able to expand its budget and bureaucratic reach by providing “security” for our democracy.

    Oh so wrong on both counts, there is more to voting than balloting. If you want to do registration on paper, say so. But regardless, IT is involved, even in your third point on ballot printing (custom ballot for each precinct, not 146,311,000 custom ballots).

    Also, didn’t examine early/mail voting. Which can be very reliable, or very vulnerable, depending on who’s doing it. Hacking isn’t limited to computers.

    A matter of civic pride and community participation. Those would help fix a lot more corruption than the election varieties. If one doesn’t see the common ground and systemic origins, one is just another peddler of feeble theoretical solutions, aka grifter.

  14. rfdawn

    Paper ballots mean no subsidy to our bloated and incompetent IT sector.

    Call that a “TAX-PAYER subsidy” and even conservatives will pay attention. Maybe point out the inevitably-escalating cost of proprietary gouging following abject commitment to a proprietary system (ie. any non-paper system). Stand well clear.

  15. Oregoncharles

    PS: I’ll still vouch for Oregon’s vote-by-mail system. Oregon did discover a potential problem with paper ballots:

    Many people don’t vote all positions (the “undervote”). A county elections official (Republican, as it happened) was caught filling in the undervotes – for Republicans, of course.

    The ballot should have a “not voting this position” slot for each item on it. I don’t think Oregon does this, yet.

    Another potential concern, in small counties where everyone knows everyone else: the ballots come in with the voter’s name on them – there’s a “secrecy envelope” inside, which is separated from the outer envelope before it’s opened. I can imagine someone discarding ballots from people they know will vote the “wrong” way. A reason for the whole process being public.

  16. Bill Smith

    Hand counting would take weeks given how many questions there are on the paper ballots I work with. (Paper ballots that are scanned to get the count.) But there are a number of things that could be done. 1) Image the ballots and make them available for others to count by machine. 2) have a public count of several machines in the days after the vote to see how close they match.

  17. SteveB

    I remember correctly after the Bush v Gore “Hanging Chad” debacle election… the big push was made to move to hi-tech electronic voting….

    So now we want paper ballots… Back to the future!!!!

  18. lyman alpha blob

    Been fighting with my Maine city for a couple years now regarding this issue. We use optical scanners to count the paper ballots fed into them. I worked as an election clerk 10-12 years ago and saw with my own eyes ballots not being tabulated as they were fed in. This was due to user error as the ballots were fed too quickly. We were told that once the ballots were fed into the tabulator, properly filled out ballots would go to a bin on one side of the machine while those with write-ins or that had some improper marking would go into a second bin, separate from the others where they could be counted easily. When we opened up the machines after the election was closed I saw all the ballots jumbled together, not neatly sorted at all. As far as I know none of these ballots were counted by hand, at least not before I was sent away for the evening.

    I saw no evidence of election fraud and at least there was a paper trail if a recount were needed. But I also know that not every vote cast that night was properly counted which to me is a travesty.

    Fast forward a few years, and our imbecile of a governor Paul Le Page gave all the larger precincts in the state brand new voting machines in 2011, just before he was up for re-election the next year. I knew I wasn’t going to get the city to go back to hand counted ballots (although I did suggest that as the best system), so I asked if we could simply do an audit to make sure these new machines worked properly. I described my experience as an election clerk – that didn’t go over very well as one of the current city councilors I was addressing had been the city clerk during the election I worked at and didn’t appreciate me telling the public what I’d seen – and made the argument that if we really valued our democracy we owed it to ourselves to make sure these new machines worked properly. I suggested choosing a couple races in each precinct at random after the polls had closed and recounting the ballots by hand to make sure they matched the machine tape. Our precincts aren’t that large so this is something that could be done in a few hours at the most.

    I was told that this is somehow illegal. In Maine votes can only be recounted if an official recount is triggered by an extremely close result. I forget what the exact threshold is but I believe it’s in the very low single digits. When I asked how anyone could know that these machines worked as they were supposed to, I was told that the FEC had approved them (not a huge vote of confidence there), that they worked in test mode (ditto) and that they were tested prior to every election. So if you’re looking to rig an election in Maine, just be sure to give yourself a somewhat healthy margin of victory and no one will ever be the wiser.

    Just how screwed up is that?

  19. Steven Greenberg

    Paper ballots are a ridiculous idea when electronic voting can be made to work even better than paper ballots. All we need to do is to design a good system, standardize it, and let private companies (or government entities) build systems that meet the specs. Ban any product from being used that does not meet the specs.

    Here is a link to the standardization proposal and it has a link to the design of that system.


    Just because private companies built systems to be rigged, there is no reason to believe that it cannot be done right if we wanted it to be done right.

    Remember that hand counted ballots were rigged for years before we went electro-mechanical, and then all electronic systems.

  20. Pespi

    It’s not only possible, it’s relatively easy to digitally fix elections in several states. That this is not being addressed speaks to the comfort our present officials have with the possibility.

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