By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Election Eve feels like a good time to write about voting, if only to avoid the horror of focusing on the results of the actual vote that is about to take place. We’ve written a lot of posts on voting at NC. Most have been heavily researched. To link to a fair sampling:
- September 9, 2012 (“What Voting Can Look Like“)
- November 15, 2017 (“Hand-Marked Paper Ballots and Virginia’s 2017 Elections“)
- September 2, 2016 (“What India Can Teach the US About Free and Fair Elections“)
- March 3, 2019 (“Corruption Fueling Choice of “Ballot Marking Devices,” not Paper Ballots, in Georgia, Pennsylvania Debacles“)
- November 10, 2019 (“Electronic Voting Machine Debacle Continues in 2019, Setting Dangerous Precedent for 2020“)
- January 23, 2020 (“Why I Am Worried About the Legitimacy of the 2020 Election Balloting Process“)
- November 2, 2020 (“Voting Turnout: Three Simple Ways to Get Out the Vote“)
- May 27, 2020 (“5 Ways to Make Voting Easier for Everyone in America—Even in a Pandemic“)
- November 29, 2019 (“Los Angeles County to Intoduce VSAP E-Voting System: NOT Hand-Marked, NOT Paper, NOT Hand-Counted in Public“)
- June 10, 2020 (“Yesterday’s Georgia Primary Voting Debacle: A Preview of November’s General Election?“)
Today, I’m going to take a different tack entirely. Rather than present research, I’m going to try reasoning from postulates and first principles, and do hardly any research at all. I will then present a plan that satisfies them. (Sadly, I will find myself in unaccustomed territory here, since it turns out one major feature of the plan is supported by conservatives.) I hope readers will take this as a starting point and add features (or dispute them). I’d particularly like to hear from readers with international experience.
The original text of the Constitution does not explicitly institute a right for citizens to vote. (I tried to find some Federalist Papers quotes on this topic, but what a mess it was.) However, the 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th amendments all begin “The right of citizens of the United States… to vote” and remove limitations to the franchise based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” “sex”, “failure to pay poll tax or other tax”, and “eighteen years of age” respectively, so I think we can assume that such a right exists. In this post, I’ll focus on how that right should be exercised, at the ballot box, in the precinct, so that election theft may be prevented and a fair ballot count performed. (Important but out of scope for this post are gerrymandering and voter rolls. Voter rolls are often digital and therefore problematic see postulate (I) above.)
Of elections and election technology, I postulate:
(I). Digital = hackable;
(II). The financial stakes for any election are enormous;
(III). Phishing, in essence, is the proposition that if fraud can happen, it will already have happened. (Phishing is ubiquitous, especially in a financialized economy. See Shiller and Akerlof on this point.)
For election theft, digital speaks to means, financial speaks to motive, and phishing speaks to opportunity (everywhere). We should, in other words, create policy on the basis of the worst case scenario that the electoral system is run by a criminal class, and create checks and balances that prevent the crooks from taking it over and corrupting the results. It’s the only way to be sure.
Here are the principles that I devised. I’m sure readers will let me know in comments if I missed anything! This is what universal suffrage should look like. Insofar as possible:
(A). Every citizen should have an equal chance to vote.
• Here I have in mind less Voting Rights Act-type discrimination, which is real and wrong, but precinct-level shenanigans (see below),
(B). Every voter should have the ability to vote from same fact set.
• It’s really ridiculous — picking one example from many — that people could have voted for Fetterman before seeing his debate performance. To pick hypotheticals, it would be ridiculous to have voted for Biden before he nuked Ukraine, or Trump before he pardoned all his buddies. Yes, one can say “my mind is made up,” or “vote Blue no matter who”, or, with Hunter Thompson, “Freak Power” (lots of good ideas here), but that’s a hypothetical too. Further, I think our electoral system should seek to reduce the baleful influence of partisanship and priors, not increase it. Needless to say, I don’t agree with Democrat think tank Brookings bizarre proposal for “election month.”
(C). Every voter’s ballot should be marked and counted using the same process.
• Hone the process. Perfect it. Standardize it. How many ways can there be to count a paper ballot?
(D). Voting should be funded as the essential public service it is.
• This includes hand-counting, if need be, but also accommodations.
Here is the plan I devised to satisfy the principles given the postulates. Under the elections clause, Congress should:
(1). Declare election day (this year, November 8, tomorrow) a national holiday (i.e., paid). No early voting. No drop boxes. Mail-in only for those physically unable to travel to the precinct; nursing homes, the military, overseas voters, etc.
• Meets principle (A); nobody needs to work on Election Day.
• Meets principle (B): all vote at the same time.
(2). Mandate that the default voting system for all precincts must be hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public (modulo accomodations in point (3) below.
• Meets principle (C), based on postulates (I), (II), and (III).
(3). Accomodations (disabilities; language; transport) should be Federally mandated and funded (by principle (D)) at the precinct level.
• Meets principle (A).
(4) Election resources should be evenly distributed across precincts, and remediation funded (by principle (D)) if need be.
• Here, I am thinking of games partisan election administrators play, like long lines in some precincts, or ballots running short, etc. I think very little of this is done in good faith. At the same time, “evenly” is doing a lot of work, and regulations would need to be developed to institutionalize it.
(5) Counting, and ballot-handing generally, should not be performed by party members.
• See principles (II) and (III). Example.
(6) Assistance for voter IDs, where mandated, should be Federally mandated and funded (by principle (D)).
• Meets principle (A). I don’t much like voter IDs (much less national IDs). I prefer the system where my church ladies carefully cross my name off a list when I tell them what it is. But, if voter IDs are what we must have, it’s absurd that poor people, or the housebound, the disabled, or former felons, have to jump through hoops to get them.
Again, I’m sure readers will let me know in comments what I missed! Now let’s take a look at the approaches each of the two parties are taking
The Democrats seem to focus on making voting more convenient (mail-in ballots, drop-boxes, early voting). In fact, they’ve ended up making it more complicated; they love homework, and so we get officious nonsense like “Make a plan to vote.” (Yeah, my plan is to down to my precinct on election day, a holiday, and cast my paper ballot along with everyone else. Sheesh.) They focus much less on giving people a reason to vote (see last week’s dithering about so-called “closing arguments”). They focus hardlly at all on expanding the voter base.
The Republicans, in my view, think much more strategically. They are focusing on electing (or muscling) officials who control the election machinery, just as, in earlier days, they focused on electing their people to school boards. (Democrats, then as now, express aghastitude but remain oddly passive.) Further, they are taking advantage of the additional attack surface provided by the Democrat tactic of convenience: Staging goons outside drop-boxes, fulminating against mail-in ballots. etc. And of course overly tight yarn diagrams.
You can see that neither party is what I would call “principled,” and neither focuses on election theft, no doubt because both prefer to hold that ultimate weapon in reserve for situations like Iowa 2020 (see Principle I). For my plan — as modified by you, dear readers — to be adopted, both parties would have to accept paper ballots (which, oddly or not, Republicans are more likely to do). Democrats would have to surrender “convenience” as a value. Republicans would have to accept universal standards for voting (and stop yammering about “Federalism,” which they are wont to do).
Would both parties agree to a voting system designed to avoid election theft, count all votes fairly, and treat all voters equally? Hard to say, at this point. But worth thinking about!
 I mean “election theft,” stealing an election by corrupting the results (as Jeb Bush did for his brother George in Florida 2000, by corrupting the voter rolls). I do not mean “voter fraud,” much beloved of Republicans but apparently minimally practiced. Election theft, given that it’s practiced by insiders, could be thought of as a form of accounting control fraud.
 Personally, I’m against even digital counting. I believe that digital should be removed from the process entirely (except possibly in cases of accommodation). The only reason I can see for digital counting is “convenience,” which should be abolished as a principle and replaced by mandates and funding. If people don’t want to volunteer — and I think that in many jurisdications they do and will — pay people.
 The current solution for voters with print disabilities has been to use BMDs “audio ballot” with keypad and a headphone jack. This article describes that process, and makes the point that often precincts have ill-trained people when there is only one BMD available, impeding the voter. The solution to that is mandates and funding, not creating an intrinsically hackable and corruptible national electoral system by imposing BMDs on all voters.
 An alternative would be to always have members of all parties present (not two, but all).
 I considered making voting mandatory (as in Australia) but concluded it was a bridge too far. Mandatory voting would certainly give strong incentives to fix broken systems. Readers?
 Worth noting that Arizona’s paper balloting turned out to be robust. Note that I said “robust.” If indeed election fraud was committed, the paper ballots will have enabled it to be detected (though I don’t think this story has broken through anywhere but Rasmussen, and I don’t have the energy to dig into it.)
In my state, I pencil in a mark (round circle) next to my preferred candidate’s name on a paper ballot. That name also has a party affiliation with it (D or R, etc.).
Then I feed the ballot into a vote-counting machine. The machine has a display that indicates that another ballot was read.
That’s all I know about if and how accurately my ballot was counted: a little digital meter on the side of the ballot-reader incremented by one. That’s my proof.
I say that’s not nearly good enough.
I want a physical (paper) receipt for my ballot that includes a ballot number, a timestamp, and cypher/hash checksum on it, along with a list of all the choices I made when I cast my vote(s). (some years there are several offices up for election, and some local funding issues (take on debt to pay for a new school, etc.), so one ballot can contain many different votes.
I want a way to take my receipt, go to some public facility (office or website), plug in my ballot number, and be able to verify that my votes were counted. I would also like to see a way to plug in my ballot number into the candidates’ website, and see that indeed, my vote was counted for that candidate. The candidate should get a list of all the ballot numbers that contained a vote for them, so the voters can verify.
I understand that there are some voter fraud problems with this; candidates sometimes pay people to vote for them. I think it’s better to have candidates paying people to vote, than for me to not know that my vote was accurately allocated to the candidate of my choice.
Digital = hackable. What you want cannot be done and should not be attempted. The entire process should be cleansed of digital.
OK, fine; let’s cleanse it of digital (computer and network-based).
How do I make sure my vote has been accurately allocated to the candidate I chose, if I use non-digital?
What audit trail do I have, verifiable by _me_, that proves to me that my vote was accurately counted?
And that’s quite the blanket-absolute statement, Lambert:
It most certainly can be done; I could write the software to do it, and I’m sure that others could do much better than me. It’s _technically_ feasible, and I’d like to hear your reasons why you think it’s not.
Should it be done? Well, that’s a very different question. And I think the answer about “should” … ought to include an audit mechanism as I stated above.
Unless there’s a way for me to audit the official record of my vote, I have to trust that all the players did their jobs as-specified. And that’s the problem, right? We don’t trust the system. And we oughtn’t trust it, unless we can verify it.
So far as I can tell, paper ballots have a number of trust issues. Recording, tabulation, transmission, etc. .. paper systems have a number of vulnerabilities, too.
What am I missing?
I think this could work without violating Lambert’s principles. Your paper ballot would have a unique ID (UID) on it and you could keep a record of this UID for the kind of after-the-fact checking that you mention. I think that the hand-counting of the paper ballots could include the creation of a record of all the UIDs of ballots cast for each candidate (this record would have to be digital in order to subsequently be searchable with less than great effort, but provided that the actual vote count was by hand, I don’t think the existence of this digital supplementary data would compromise the count). The total number of UIDs of ballots cast for a candidate would equal the hand count of votes for that candidate.
This would allow voters to after-the-fact verify that their votes were credited to the intended candidates.
It would, however, compromise the anonymity of one’s vote if one’s UID became known to someone else.
That’s the way Singapore’s voting is done. Each ballot has a unique ID number. Ballots are stored for six months before being incinerated in the presence of ruling and opposition party members.
Not sure if the mention of Singapore invalidates the idea LOL!
I think the mention of Singapore is actually a good one. “Democracy” comes, for most people, in two parts: the “mechanics” of democracy, how votes are cast and counted, subject to fairly clear standards, and the “spirit” of democracy, which means almost anything to everyone so can’t be meaningfully discussed. But no matter what the latter is, without a clear and credible “mechanics,” democracy is meaningless because, without widespread credibility, there’s nothing. For what it is worth, governments like Singapore seem to be very transparent and straightforward about the mechanics and that makes criticism of the regime harder. (Taiwan under KMT rule had remarkably transparent vote casting and counting process as well, as I understand it–at least during the younger Chiang era).
Some psephologists value the receipt-free property of elections, that the inability to prove one’s vote discourages corruption and makes the vote “unbuyable”. Because in their rarefied world, voting is a ceremonial and religious act of submission to authority, not a demand for service.
> How do I make sure my vote has been accurately allocated to the candidate I chose, if I use non-digital? What audit trail do I have, verifiable by _me_, that proves to me that my vote was accurately counted?
This is why the ballots are hand-counted in public.
I think it depends on what the digital part is supposed to do. If it is NOT used for counting then hacking would have less risk (somewhat).
You could have hand-marked ballots and digital receipts that are provided when you place your completed ballot in the box, there should be a count of all ballots in the box and a count that all ballots put in the box were counted. Your receipt would show that all X ballots placed in that box were counted (or not).
You can’t link a receipt to a specific ballot without compromising privacy.
> You could have hand-marked ballots and digital receipts that are provided when you place your completed ballot in the box,
That’s in essence VSAP, which doesn’t work. See the diagram here.
In Danish elections irregularities are extremely rare and small and accusations of fraud are virtually non-existing. This is due to a system of hand-counted paper ballots counted in public by party members.
Hand counted paper ballots are a low-tech system that are easy to understand for everyone. You can see with your own eyes that the ballot boxes are empty at the beginning of election day, that ballots are handled properly by officials and that the count is done correctly. A digital system on the other hand is impossible for almost everyone to control and understand and requires immense trust in technology, developers and government to be accepted as fair and accurate.
Using party members to count the votes not only solves the practical problem of finding volunteers who care enough about politics to volunteer a day as an official, it also prevents fraud and builds trust in the result. When officials are party members you know their bias and can take it into account, so ballots are always handled bo officials from different parties, thereby making fraud harder as you are always being watched by your opponent. Having the parties themselves take part in the count also helps them trust the results as they had their own people at every polling station who would have told them is something shady was going on. Officials are paid a reasonable remuneration for their trouble and municipal authorities responsible for organising polling stations will make sure they get something nice to eat and drink as well.
Counting the ballots is made easier by giving voters separate differently-coloured ballots for each race.
The Danish system is fast. People vote for candidates or party lists and you usually have the results on party level around 11pm on election night and a final result naming elected indviduals the next afternoon.
More than one day to vote is a good thing. Not months before, but a week or two of voting is good. Not everyone is home on the ‘election holiday’ you propose. Many folks travel for a living, or have sick issues (kids/parents/themselves) on the the ‘election holiday’. Calling it a ‘holiday’ from work doesn’t mean it is a holiday from other issues.
IF we are only going to have one day, the ‘absentee’ ballot needs easier access and use.
> the ‘absentee’ ballot needs easier access and use.
As long as it doesn’t turn into the default. (Absentee ballots don’t make me crazy, unlike early voting.)
In Sweden, we use pre-voting, which is polling places that are open for a month or so before the election day. Often in libraries and such.
The pre-voting work the same as an ordinary election day polling place, except once you are done and has closed the envelope instead of going in a ballot box, it goes into a bigger envelope marked with your name and polling place. The election officials on site can help check your polling place in the database.
The pre-votes are stored and on election day delivered to each polling place, where they sit until voting has closed.
Then after voting has closed, the pre-votes are checked against the list of voters. If you pre-voted and didn’t vote on election day, you are marked of on the election roll, the outer envelope is opened and the inner envelope goes into the ballot box. If you pre-voted and also voted on election day, your pre-vote is destroyed without the outer envelope ever being opened.
For the voter, this means that you can vote when you have the time, and if you change your mind you can vote on election day and the election day vote is your final vote. In that way, they fullfill (B) without making it hard for people who for some reason can’t vote on election day.
The only weakness I see is if pre-election votes are tampered with before getting to the polling place. The election day voting is public and the polling place stays open until votes are counted, so you can literally see your vote go into the ballot box, and then see the vote count being done with the votes taken out of the ballot box, without the ballot box ever being out of sight. So far, there hasn’t been indications of ballot tampering, so I think making it easy to vote wins out here.
At present the best one can hope for is that the shenanigans are more or less evenly distributed.
I beg to differ, because our elected appear bought, and the proposal above does not address the corruption among our so called representatives.
Especially in the Senate, and the lack of transparency in foreign affairs and the military.
The classic review of a book about penguins, where the reviewer complained it wasn’t about crows.
I agree with holiday, and paper ballots, entirely. I have worked at ballot stations during national elections, some years ago now, and was astonished at how hard it would be to fake votes. The digital machines change all that. One future problem may well be though that as everything everywhere is being digitized, people may have trouble working with paper ballots. Seriously. Something to think about.
In order for your single election day to work fairly we’d need a ton more ballot stations, just a ton, and I fear that is not likely to happen due to cost. I’d go for a week of early in person voting with the final day being the holiday. This would result in most people voting early and then using the holiday as a holiday. This also will counter limited availabllity of voting places, and make it easier for people with less mobility to somehow make it out to vote. If just held to one day you;’d need a billion places to avoid chaos, huge lines, etc etc.
One question I have here is how will these changes happen? Do you really think the current congress will make this change?
Maybe you glossed over it, but surely you also need a limit on campaign contributions, say $ 25 dollars, period, and no corporations or groups, publicly financed.
Not sure where ranked choice fits in with your plan, maybe not at all.
I am inclined to think it needs to be mandatory, just as I am inclined that everyone in the country needs to perform two years of national service.
Vast improvement, though.
> Not sure where ranked choice fits in with your plan, maybe not at all.
One problem at a time. I’m inclined to support RCV (Maine has it, over the unified opposition of the entire political class, so, good) but my cursory study says there may be “will of the voters” problems with it.
It would require ballot and workflow changes, but I don’t see it affecting postulates, principles, or plan in any way.
Ireland uses it, and as far as I know with paper ballots and an election system that fullfills A through D
Takes a bit of time to count with the iterative process and many candidates with Irelands multi seat constituencies, many parties, and many independent candidates, but it yields some interesting data. The votes doesn’t always flow the way you expect them to.
Most of the perceived problems with approval voting seem to have a constitutive nature. Supposedly they don’t produce a “clear winner”, which I think is a polite way of saying that the campaign process doesn’t elicit the voter’s submission to capitalist relations. Election Month, on the other hand, seems tailor-made to whip up moral panics in a pressurized container. I say Brookings needs to put the wip-its down.
There is a lot of cruft to remove in our collective decision-making systems; Lambert has wisely restricted himself in context to rewriting one distinct subsystem of the whole process of state. I note that the subsystem Lambert has reworked also protects the accuracy of plebiscites and so improves conditions for direct governance. Which is even worse than approval voting to the aforementioned complainers.
Nothing here I’d disagree with. Mostly I’d just like to set the clock ahead to whenever day it is that the Democrats finally accept tomorrow’s election results.
I did some research about voting systems and a bit on mandatory voting after a rather startling experience at a wedding I attended that fell within a week or two of a federal election.
I found two examples of “Western democracies” that have this, Belgium and Australia. It does not seem to have solved the governance problems, but maybe it has solved the ballot collection and counting issues – I did not delve much into that. Considering Belgium has been going through intermittent periods without a functioning government due to inability to make interparty alliances to govern, that surely reiterates the principle of non-partisan treatment of the process of voting and vote counting, even if that in itself cannot solve the problem that political parties seem stuck acting like sports teams, not people intending to actually govern accroding to the wishes of the voters if elected.
My readings about Australia indicate that many people simply invoke one of the accepted reasons for not voting, and that’s that. Others pay the fine for not voting. Many others spoil their ballots, leading to Australia having among the highest number of spoiled ballots in any “Western democracy.” So while that gives the benefit of clearing demonstrating that accountability and credibility of elected officials in Australia, there does not yet seem to be a means to action that for Australian voters.
I think there should be a formally printed “none of the above” option required on the ballot instead so that each voter can clearly show they have not spoiled their ballot by accident or because they are so uncaring or uninformed they wrote in something stupid. Then a sensible goal would be to strive to do a decent enough job to reduce the number of votes for “none of the above,” and it could then be plausibly argued that something close to no vote being wasted is happening. In a more sensible world then some statistically appropriate proportion of “none of the above” votes could legally trigger action to correct problems – but that is dreaming in technicolor when the widespread response now to data showing results “elites” don’t like is to stop collecting it.
I want to second the option for a “none of the above” option, especially if voting was mandatory. Frankly I don’t even care if it didn’t count in the long run (for example, call a new electron if “none of the above” had largest %). I just want to make sure whoever wins is well aware they weren’t given a “mandate”.
BTW Lambert, you’ve done one hell of a job making the case for hand-marked/hand-counted paper ballots over the years. Great job!
The percentage of people who don’t bother voting because “red shit sandwich versus blue shit sandwich” is so large. What if you could put ‘none of the above’ for any office, and if ‘none’ won, the election would be restaged in 2 or 3 months. What if the parties had to nominate people who didn’t suck, or lose power? What if stray 3rd parties or non-affiliated started winning on that second go-round?
Yes! I love the concept of “none of the above”. Maybe it fits in with ranked choice voting. Although, I’m not sure ranked choice is compatible with hand counting.
I also think we need more than one day to vote.
Ranked choice voting should only be used to cut down a large number of candidates to a smaller number, it should NOT be used for determining a winner.
People don’t vote for their preference, they vote for their preference which is most likely to win and most likely to beat their non-preference. Polls become the game played in rank choice voting.
Some think that voting is transitive – A beats B, B beats C therefore A beats C. It doesn’t work that way, try playing Rock/Paper/Scissors.
Democracy means more, not less, elections.
I agree on the inclusion of “None of the above” in the ballot.
I would also like to keep voting rolls to NOT be used to send jury duty notices.
I would like to have all media advertising banned and only allow street campigning like in Japan. If a candidate campaigns negatively, he should be banned. I’ve had enough of these rascals telling me of what bad things his rival stands fo.
France has a “vote blanc” which I believe is in effect “none of the above”. These are counted, and separated from abstentions and “vote nul” which are invalid votes (damaged, write-in of candidates who are not running, etc.. An number of other countries have NOTA formalized:
> NOTA formalized
Don’t hold back: what *was* the startling experience at a wedding. Did Hillary catch the bouquet *again* (always the bridesmaid, never the bride) or was the groom’s vow electronically tabulated as a no?
a good list Lambert. Only 2 quibbles from me.
1) Election Day being a holiday wouldn’t mean much for a lot of people, especially if it’s still on a Tuesday. People in the service industry work every day, holidays or not. We work on Thanksgiving and Christmas, what makes you think I wouldn’t have to work on election day. I think a better solution to satisfy both principles A and B would be to have voting over a few days or maybe up to 7, some of which should span the weekend.
2) I’m fully on board with making voting mandatory. From what I understand about Australia, making it mandatory actually forces the government to provide resources and getting exemptions for hardship reasons isn’t that difficult. I’m sure this is the one people will have the most problem with, but if we can frame it as “duty” to vote and not just a “right” I think you can get more people to sign on.
I don’t see why it couldn’t be a three day weekend, not Tuesday. I think a week is too long because the parties will game it (unless we strictly limited polling, which I left out).
Maybe a solution could be mandatory half day for those who need to work? Gas station attendants, firewomen, police, etc. No one works more than a 4 hour shift on election day?
3 day weekend I think is a good compromise. I’ve never understood why it’s on a Tuesday anyway.
The Tuesday is just dumb.
So far as I know, Tuesday is nobody’s sabbath.
We need to talk to the Pastafarians about fixing that.
A three-day voting weekend makes a lot of sense to me.
Thinking through “October surprises”:
I’m guessing they take a week to penetrate the electorate. Moreover, scandals tend to drop Friday, so the narrative can be developed Saturday, and the aghastitude ignited on Sunday starting with the talk shows.
But the three day weekend doesn’t give time for the cycle to complete. So Prinicple (B) still stands (as it would not, for example, with Brooking’s nutty “month-long” concept).
Except a lot of people will promptly schedule 3 day holiday trips and blow off voting entirely.
Earthling – Quite true.
But as I said on another forum, those who can afford to schedule a three-day getaway are the elite and the PMC, not the working class or the poor, and maybe it would be a good thing if fewer of them voted.
Let me start with three caveats:
1) I live in a country with a open party-list proportional representation, which alone makes a world of difference,
2) we have only one election at a time,
3) we have national ID and nobody here wouldn’t trust a system that doesn’t demand strong identification at the polling station.
Election day is always on weekend. When you enter your allocated polling station here (in cities always within a walking distance) you enter a queue (usually short, but depends) according to letter your surname begins with. When you get to the officials, you prove your identity (which you can do with freely available temporary voting ID card) and they check you out from the list. Then they give you a ballot, which is a folded card with a big circle printed inside.
This you take to the booth, where you can check the aforementioned lists for the personal number of the candidate you want to vote, which you then write on the big circle.
Next you proceed to ballot box, where one official stamps your ballot while you still hold it, and other one removes a cover over the slit in the ballot box so you can drop the ballot in.
They thank you, you thank them and then you are on your merry way out.
The officials at the polling station are all nominated by the parties participating in the election, but not necessarily members of the said party. Mrs. Socialist has been several times an official while never having been a member of any party.
When the polling station closes, the officials construct a big table onto which they empty the ballot box. Since each ballot has only one number and polling station areas are relative small (2-5000 electors), it’s usually a fast job to sort the ballots into stacks according to the number.
That done, every stack is counted twice (or as many times it takes to get a consistent number) and when everyone present is satisfied with the counts, the president of the officials (it’s actually called a board, too) calls in the results to the district election board in presence of others.
Then the stacks are bind, sealed and sent to the district election board for verification count the next day.
We usually know the results 2-3 hours after the closing of polling stations, and very rarely the verification changes anything. Since we use d’Hondt method (open party-list, remember), sometimes the quotients may be so close the district board does an automatic recount to validate the result.
Our absentee/early voting is arranged in post offices and dedicated early polling posts. Also absentee voting teams visit hospitals and prisons etc. It’s open from 11 days to 5 days before the actual election day. Otherwise the procedure is the same as above, except the ballots are stored in the district election board premises and they are counted on the election day before the polling stations close and the election board will be busy.
How many items are on your ballots, typically?
Always just one. A separate election for local, regional and state level or referendums. Of course we don’t elect any civil servants, attorneys or officers of law.
> Rasmussen tweet
Here’s AZ Maricopa County’s analysis of the ninja audit report (93 pages – you’re not going to like the title, though :)
Per the tweet, the ninja audit (which counted votes in Maricopa County for presidential and 2 Senate races) 2.1M ballots were counted by 1,500 volunteers, in 100,000 person-hours. I’d be interested in studies or analysis of what it would take to count ballots such as the one I voted in 2022 (link).
Many other countries handle the counting rapidly. I don’t see the issue.
I’ve done some looking – not a lot and not very systematically – but haven’t found examples of countries with more than a few items a single ballot, or a small number of separate ballots for different races. I can see the methodology – counting one race and then restacking to count another, different color ballots for different races – but not how it would scale.
Yes, the one problem with Lambert’s proposal is the length of modern ballots. Today I cast my absentee ballot for the election here in Michigan. I had to vote for Governor, District Attorney, Secretary of State, U.S. Congressperson, State Senator, State Congressperson, trustees for three state universities, local school board, three ballot initiatives to change the state constitution, and seven or eight different local millage items.
To do hand-counted ballots, you would need to schedule a lot of those elections at different times. I don’t think that would be a bad thing at all, as it would clean up the campaign season, and limit the idea of “wave elections” where the Presidential candidate is going to help sweep others into power. Changing the Congress a year after the Executive branch might be a more effective dynamic.
You mean the length of American ballots, not modern ones.
Too many things are on the ballot in way too many jurisdictions in US because politicians have abdicated from “governing.”
Not at all. Without a means of frog-marching officials out of office just as quickly as they were put there, to elevate anyone to command you is the height of stupidity. I’d rather replace the legislature with monthly plebiscites, 2:1 carries anything.
This is a combination of design issues with the ballots and workflow issues in the counting. I find it extremely hard that, well, the country that put a man on the moon can’t solve this problem. (If there’s no data, that’s because (a) other countries are less crazy than we are and (b) nobody’s had the incentive to try.
In that AZ process ballots were on a kind of lazy susan that circled to the person counting each race, which would minimize physical handling and speed things up a bit. It would be ironic if that particular audit produced a scalable idea here.
My ballot this year had 97 line items. I’ve probably said before, I personally lack the imagination to envision a manual process, even if this large number were reduced by splitting voting into a few separate elections. It’s not an argument against trying, I’d just be interested to see some ideas.
The current faction on the right supposedly arguing now for both hand counting and fast results would have an opportunity to establish some credibility as far as proposing a methodology, if the were serious, since they have resources to engage workflow or document design experts.
Well, Canada, for instance, where I live, counts pretty quick. Polls close at 9, results are tabulated for 11 o’clock news, in most cases. BUT!!! We have 3 election days; municipal, provincial, and federal, and they can be years apart. We are only voting for one candidate for either federal or provincial parliaments, which are done at separate times, mostly, as when a govt gets a vote of no confidence or by statute (federal only, and that’s relatively new), and for municipal elections. We vote for three candidates at most: mayor, city councillor, oh, and school trustee. Provincial and federal, vote for only one candidate for your riding. So easy to count! Oh, we do have many, many parties here, this was our municipal slate, this was our provincial slate, and this was our federal election.
Most of the offices youse guys vote for, we have filled by civil servants. We don’t vote for sheriffs, or judges, or dog-catchers (do you really?), or any of that stuff. We have next to no corruption scandals, no prison pipeline. We have our MP, our MPP, and our mayor and city councilor, and that’s it. Well, school trustee — BTW, we specify whether to support public or separate schools, and unless you can demonstrate church membership, your tax $$ go to public schools and you can only vote for the trustee for your kind of school. I’m fine with that. And you know always who to call.
Municipal offices are technically non-partisan, but do affiliate; you can tell who is who by the colours of their campaign posters. Each city councillor elected in a ward gets a seat at city hall. For provincial and federal, the party with the most MP’s or MPP’s gets to name the premier/prime minister thingy, usually their party head. So, who is that guy (usually a guy)? Elected by the actual party members, not citizens at large. You want to vote for the leader of your party? You pay dues. Mind you, there is a slate of
guyspeople you can vote for, but still, you have a prayer. Sort of. And you can always run yourself.
Far from perfect, but mostly works. So far.
Someday I will tell you about how the US election machine came to Canada , but not today.
A big problem youse guys have with counting ballots is that you elect and/or have referenda on *everything*.
Very thorough, H. I add only that in parts of the country there is a fourth layer of government — Regional Council — which sits between municipal and provincial.
Thanks, good post. I’m in a mail-in ballot state which has been pretty much state wide mail-in for at least ten years, and it seems to work OK:
Washington State Has Years of Experience with Mail-in Ballots
I do miss going to the polling place and voting. Just dropping the ballots off (even if it’s the same location) is just not the same. Maybe have a national holiday, and we can all just hang out at the polling place and have a chat.
Oregon has mail-in ballots too. Since these are paper ballots, filled in by hand, I’m surprised Lambert opposes them – maybe the counting is done by a machine?
It took 4 hours to fill out my mail-in ballot while reading the voter guide and candidate websites. Try doing that in a voting booth. I’m for shorter ballots. The Canadian system sounds great.
Forgot to say I am also in favor of NOTA and if NOTA wins, a new election is necessary. Perhaps better candidates would be offered if the possibility of a rerun hung over their heads. There were several unopposed candidates on my ballot this year. Two of them in the Superior Court had been in office for 27 years. I would have NOTAed them for sure.
I’m also in favor of ranked choice which I believe Washington will institute in future. At least I hope so.
My morning NYT newsletter contained an article about voting. A lot was drivel, but they had a point about the complexity of US ballots and voting:
In this year’s ballot we have the US house seat, a full slate of NY state offices, multiple judges (a dozen?), a town council seat and a state bond issue. It is a lengthy ballot. When I lived in Arizona, ballots were more complicated.
I understand an appreciate Lambert’s desire for simplicity. It surely works that way in Ontario. They know who won quickly, but the ballots are simple.
My concern is how can one hope for such a high level of civic involvement at the precinct level to run the election. The larger issue is how to count the ballots for maybe 20 or 30 races? It probably takes a dozen people or more at a precinct level. Where do the volunteers come from? Who might volunteer?
My ballot contained 48 different races or items
2 Federal races (senate & house)
10 state races
1 local water agency
1 county sheriff
1 city council (multiple votes)
2 school districts
22 judicial offices at various levels
7 state ballot initiatives
2 county ballot measures
In addition to the casual information I’ve seen over the past months, I spent about 4 hours researching the issues/candidates as I filled out my sample ballot and 1/2 hour actually voting in person on Sunday. I also spent about 15 minutes today cleaning up all the election junk mail I’ve received and dumping it in the recycling bin.
> My concern is how can one hope for such a high level of civic involvement at the precinct level to run the election. The larger issue is how to count the ballots for maybe 20 or 30 races? It probably takes a dozen people or more at a precinct level. Where do the volunteers come from? Who might volunteer?
I agree that civic engagement is important, and that’s one reason I think that a common voting location is important.
On complex ballots, I care mostly about the electeds. It might be possible to hive off other items. Do the referenda by mail, for example.
On counting complex ballots, I think it’s a workflow issue that surely people can figure out (especially since the alternative is no election integrity).
On volunteers: Volunteers are the best, but if we must pay people, we must. See principle (D).
There should definitely be a national photographic ID. Using drivers licenses is crazy, not everyone has a license, not everyone can get a license and not everyone can get a “nondriver ID.” Its not like homeland security doesn’t have your information anyways.
Here in Ontario our polling places are small, walkable (in the cities), and well-staffed. I voted in my municipal election, they had sent me a card since I was registered about forever, and all I had to do was show some ID (drivers license is what I showed them). Mr HF, a non-citizen, voted for the first time, coz he didn’t know he could (if you live in TO, you can vote for your local reps). All he needed was his dr license and a recent piece of mail addressed to him in the riding. If there had been any dispute, the nice lady working the desk, a neighbour, could have vouched for him, but she didn’t need to. So far, at least, Canada really likes it if you vote. Hey, wasn’t there something Joe B said about ‘democracy vs autocracy”? Maybe that was just envy.
And it should be free. Free to get whatever documents are necessary. Free to get the ID itself. Any other fee should not exist. We should be able to apply at Post Offices, Public Libraries, and Civic Buildings. The argument that the poor can’t afford to get IDs needs to be obliterated.
Photo ID is not only important but getting more important, and the impact on racial and ethnic minorities and low SES populations is terrible, in not being able to even apply for government benefits or health care that they are entitled to legally. People routinely lose all their id upon arrest and incarceration if they don’t have it on them (esp. if homeless), and then they get out of jail and can’t get assistance because they have no id. I may just be in my own bubble, but I don’t see any media attention to this issue, and it is really a basic social justice issue and one that would be relatively cheap and easy to address. . . and it should be free.
In Finland you can get a free temporary voting ID-card from police in case you don’t have any other valid* identification.
* polling stations are allowed some leeway here, usually even expired passports can be considered valid for voting purposes. Basically anything with a name, a face and a personal ID number given by an authority they recognize.
In my state, it is easier by far to get or renew a passport than a drivers license (or the non-driver alternative photo ID.) Passport fees are five times as much and possibly out of reach for many. That is a slick trick. Not as nifty as armed thugs hanging around as self-appointed poll watchers, but one way to kept the riff raff away from our precious fair elections.
Whenever you see Republicans blathering about hand-marked ballots, keep in mind that that those paper ballots will be for the right people, not just any old citizen.
I hadn’t planned on voting this year because I don’t know the politics of this state yet, but my children convinced me that there are initiatives, like legalizing marijuana, that need to be voted on so this will be the first time I’ve voted here in ND – but it seems like they do it pretty much right. I live in the only state in the Union where you don’t have to register to vote. A DL/state issued ID or Tribal Card and a utility bill if your address doesn’t match the address on your DL is all you need. Why should we have to go through the bother and bureaucracy of getting a national ID?
We also don’t have ‘voting precincts’ – the city where I live has five large auditoriums and you can pick where you want to vote. We also have early voting, a drop box, and mail-in voting.
Since I wasn’t planning on voting, I haven’t researched how the votes are counted here, but, like most everything else they do in this state, I think they probably do it simply and without fuss. And as far as I’ve ever heard, no one has ever accused this state of having fraudulent voting.
Not sure if it adds much to the conversation but the other day I stumbled across the YouTube channel for the Australian Electoral Commission. If you dig through them you will come across some interesting videos on how the system works (mostly) here in Oz-
Spent a lot of time after 2000 trying to learn the history of election mechanics in the US, both online searching and wandering in libraries and came up dry. Mostly limited discussion based on proving certain points with specific elections. The closest was in regards to the adoption of the “Australian ballot” in the early 1890s, but even most of that was poli sci discussion of the impact on the party system. Though I did find a paper recently that argued vote buying was the harm and the Australian ballot (secret voting/ballot provided by the govt) was the accepted solution under the idea there would be no way to verify that a purchased voter would vote accordingly. Also some discussion of presidential canvass of 1840 and 1844 that resulted in a uniform presidential election day in 1848 and since (identical issue that now is made about early voting). (Early November was picked due to the timing of South Carolina legislature sessions which directly appointed the electors). I haven’t found the reason why voting for US Congress (house) was also mandated for Nov in all states in 1872.
I generally agree that the trend to place innumerable races and questions on a single election ballot to save money or increase response is detrimental to the overall goal. Even in my state (Hawaii) which has the fewest elected offices per capita. This year is a “big” one since we have gov/lt gov (run combined team), state sen (due to reapportionment) state rep, and city councilman plus 2 seats on something called “OHA” (per USSC decision even though OHA is for ethnic Hawaiians as a state agency all citizens are eligible to vote, though only about 30% of marked ballots actually vote for OHA). I guess we will have a couple charter amendments, which tend to be extremely technical.
> I generally agree that the trend to place innumerable races and questions on a single election ballot to save money or increase response is detrimental to the overall goal.
I think we could split them out. It’s convenience taking precedence, again, over democratic expression.
I don’t know why at 77 and 79 years of age respectively, you would require my wife and me to stand in line with strangers who refuse to wear masks in the middle of a triple viral pandemic in order to exercise our right to vote. Mail-in ballots are wonderful. We have the time to sit down with the League of Women Voters guidebook, examine the various candidates’ positions, explore the pros and cons of various bond issues, and debate issues between ourselves. It is a much more informed and convenient process as well. Oregon has proven that it works very well.
> stand in line with strangers who refuse to wear masks
You’re right, I should add airborne mitigations as a requirement.
As for the rest, first, voting is a civic duty. Second, see principle (B).
Oregon has had mail in voting for over 20 years, and it seems to work well.
I never heard any complaints about it, from either party, until 2020 when the Orange Jesus got all his sycophants wound up about voter fraud.
in our local municipal election, for the first time were switched to all voting over the net. Results for a rural area were quite dramatic. all new “cottage oriented” council. people who lived here their whole life dumped.
Paper ballots, counted in public has worked for ever. the reasons given to change it are dubious at best.
Ahahaha, Downfall parody shot: https://i.imgur.com/qQ0fMV1.png
“If the DOJ indicts Trump, everything will be all right”.
Two experiences from an immigrant.
France : vote is always Sunday, only one election at a time, paper ballots hand-counted by volunteers and surveilled by other volunteers and partly officials. Anticipation votes are allowed but you need a pretty good reason and it’s not easy. If you cannot vote yourself you delegate your vote to somebody who will vote on election day for you.
Canada: Vote is usually Mondays, employer must give a 2 hours period to vote on your schedule (as in paid time leave) IF your shift covers the polling station opening hours, which is rare (unless you have a 16 hours shift). paper ballots hand-counted and sometimes machine-counted (depend on the precinct I think). You can vote by anticipation quite easily and it’s the preferred way if you cannot vote on election day, although you can also delegate your vote to somebody.
In both cases, rare are the cases of attempted election theft or suspected cases.
In both cases, lines are usually short (15m minutes max), but the whole thing is managed by the state or some surrogate agency (Canada Elections) and cannot be subject to local shenanigans. In France case it’s an heritage of Jacobin’s tradition of centralization and in Canada’s case it’S delegated to the provinces which until now seems to be rather civil about it. Time will tell if we dig the same partisan canyon as the US did!
> If you cannot vote yourself you delegate your vote to somebody who will vote on election day for you.
I don’t see why we can’t do that.
Universal declaration of Human Rights states that the will of the people is expressed by secret vote which proxy voting definitely is not. The point of secret ballot is prevention of intimidation or vote buying, both which are possible with proxy voting.
In practice, it just limits intimidation and vote buying to official campaign formats only. Can’t let the riff raff ruin the ritual or the religion.
I am a fan of the Datavote punchcard system in which the names of the candidates are printed on the punchcard. The inferior Votomatic system was far more widespread, probably because it sucked. Votomatic involved inserting a coded card into a sleeve with the candidates’ names on them, which were then machine counted or, I believe, optically scanned. The voter could not verify their votes once they removed the card from the sleeve. Votomatic also used the discredited stylus to punch the cards, making it easy to spoil ballots with partially punched cards, the infamous hanging chads of Florida.
With Datavote, you inserted the card with names on it into a punching device with a prominent lever and a pointed end that you slid to the candidate of your choice. Then you would press down on the lever, which would record your vote on the punchcard with a satisfyingly loud PUNCH. If you didn’t hear and feel the punch, you didn’t cast the vote. When you were finished you could take out the punchcard and verify all your choices right in the booth. The card also could be retained as a traceable record, just like a paper ballot. Nothing electronic, except for the recording of all the votes.
The multi-shambles of Votomatic ruined the reputation of any kind of punchcard voting, including Datavote, which, as far as I know, never had any problems, and it was phased out after the Florida debacle.
Thank you Lambert. I would like to add standardized exit polling as a consideration.
> I would like to add standardized exit polling as a consideration.
Thanks Lambert. I like to vote absentee but I like your proposals. One addition I have always wanted is a way to veryify that a) your ballot was received and counted and b) what that ballot actually contained, as a way to veryify it.
Unfortunately, I can’t think of an easy way to do that without exposing that data to misuse.
I don’t have ideas about tracking and confirming a particular ballot and how it was counted. However, in the large picture there are control mechanisms
In IL I get an email when my ballot was mailed and when it was returned. In general, states keep track of ballots mailed, ballots issued at polling places, ballots returned, and ballots counted. Part of the post-election canvas and certification process is balancing these numbers, and confirming chain of custody procedures when ballots are transported from, say a polling place to a tabulation center.
States have post-election hand recounts of a subset of ballots (like x races on y ballots in z precincts). I’m not qualified to say whether this is a statistically valid approach to assessing accuracy, but it’s part of the process. (Of course, this still doesn’t address the accuracy of the counting, risks of machine tabulation, or risks where ballots have been machine marked).
One reason I get angry at accusations of voter fraud involving some version of boxes of ballots delivered in the night or ballots returned and not counted is not only lack of evidence that it happened, but lack of even a theory of what control procedures are in place and what it would take to by-pass them. It’s such an insult to the public service workers and volunteers who do all this work, and useless in helping to identify and mitigate actual weak points in the process.
From what I’ve seen while following 2020 post-election controversies, these procedures are part of the public record.
fwiw: Here’s a non-blue checked account and link for an organization I just heard of today that claims to be compiling a “comprehensive knowledge base about how votes are counted and elections certified down to the local level…” They have documents for 6 states so far. Their website doesn’t give any specific information about who they are, but the documents have citations to public laws and records.
> States have post-election hand recounts of a subset of ballots
“There’s never time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over.”
I lived as a permanent resident in a foreign country which gave me the right to vote after 5 years. Voting entailed filling out a paper ballot and dropping it (folded) into a glass sided container in full view of poll workers and watchers. At the end of the voting hours, the votes were taken out, read aloud, shown, and tallied one by one. Election Day was a holiday, and stores were forbidden from opening. (Only bus drivers were allowed to work.) The system was so air tight that the 1988 plebiscite to award the president another 8-year term produced a true result: NO. The losing candidate (who famously “ran alone and came in second”) wanted to subvert it at the last minute but couldn’t get away with it. His name: Augusto Pinochet.
> Voting entailed filling out a paper ballot and dropping it (folded) into a glass sided container in full view of poll workers and watchers.
We are making this much more difficult than it has to be.
The US is strange. Why do you have to make voting so complex?
Here in the UK your local polling station is open from 7am to 10pm. You go in, give your name and address to the tellers and they give you the ballot paper. (Actual paper). The ballot paper serial number is recorded (with paper and pen) against your name to allow later audit, in case of fraud. You then go into a booth and use the pencil hanging from a piece of string to mark an X against your choice. You then fold the paper and place it in the ballot box, next to the tellers.
After the polls close, the ballot boxes are taken to the counting area for the constituency, opened and emptied. Ballot papers are then sorted and counted. This takes place overnight, all overseen by the candidates and the returning officer.
Finally, when the results are clear, and provided there are no objections, the returning officer declares the result.
Incidentally, I have never had to queue to vote. Polling stations are plentiful, and plentifully staffed.
Also recorded by MI5 if you vote for the wrong people. Memoirs of local govt offices with the communist ballots in a cupboard. Counted but also noted….
UK needs a true secret ballot, given the Overton window includes Russia Russia Russia, Eat Ze Bugs, Heating is Cheating etc and at some point soon we will all be mad as hell and not about to take it anymore.
I like all of this, though I would be very ok with several days of voting. As others have pointed out, the complexity of an American ballot makes hand counting (the only legitimate means of vote counting, IMO) a monstrous task. This probably speaks to a feature/bug issue on the compression of civic engagement into one day every two years.
I’m not voting this year, for the first time since 1992. Traditionally I’ve seen it as a responsibility. That and heading to the polls to vote in favor of library or school funding along with spoiling the rest of the ballot with write ins and hopeless third parties is how I’ve traditionally the situation. But I just can’t anymore. I live in a one party town of democrats who govern in the clintonian democrat model so there’s no real point in local voting either. To balance this i’m committing to becoming a pain in everyone’s ass at city commission and planning meetings.
Several years ago, while I was vacationing in Ecuador, My visit happened to coincide with an election. I don’t know all the details re absentee voting, but learned sominteresting details from my Spanish teacher:
There are multiple parties.
The campaigning is limited to 40 days before the election.
Voting happens on election day, generally in person.
Voting is not mandatory, but failure to vote results in not having a current citizen card, which allows access to public services.
An automatic recount of 40% of ballots is required.
There was a great deal of enthusiasm for voting. A fishing vessel we sighted off the Galapagos was even displaying a campaign sign.
I thought the “citizen card” could be adapted to US elections by making election day a holiday, but only a paid holiday with proof of voting.
More significant problems in the US, I think, are the lack of a “none of the above” choice, and the near impossibility of a third (or more) candidate to get on the ballot. How did “the two party system” become sacred, and who gave two private corporations the ability to limit candidates’ access to the ballot? (if I were pretending to be an originalist, I would point out that “factions” were dreaded by at least some of the founders).
I didn’t see anything about the number and convenience of voting locations. One reason Democrats focus on having a plan to vote is because many of them don’t have cars and/or live in areas where they have to take (often slow or unreliable) public transportation. Add to that the Republicans’ long term play of reducing the number of polling stations in rural areas and making them hard to reach without a car. I don’t see them changing that tactic in the interest of getting more people to vote.
The D & R duopoly is a huge hindrance to electoral politics. It’s not unlike Lady Macbeth’s spot. No matter how hard some try to brook it, the duopoly is still there. A sign of the duopoly’s guilt, and of the gilt that sustains it.
If other than duopoly approved candidates do not have ready access to the ballot, we’re screwed no matter how ballots are counted.
Ranked-choice voting is a gateway to more open politics, a way of reducing the duopoly’s influence to a size easily drowned in a bathtub. Oh, someone’s already used that? Point stands!
I think a “Voting extended weekend semi-holiday” would work better. Friday thru Monday. Anybody who works gets at least time-and-a half. Anyone who requires employees to work more that two days pays a “voting impairment tax“. Paper (or physically equivalent) ballots marked with pen/pencil, counted in public view, and kept in translucent containers attached to a larger platform. (see voting in India).
[Separate issue #1:] Half of each legislature elected with preferential transferable votes from geographic constituencies, another half elected by proportional slates from a single universal constituency.
[Separate issue #2:] The only way to really learn to vote is by doing it. Get more competent voters by lowering the voting age to 14.
I’m a fan of spreading out the voting over a few days. Lots of worksites can’t shut down (hospitals, critical infrastructure, etc) even on holidays. Multi day also reduces the peak load on the polling stations so less lines and waiting.
All this does not deal with entrenched corruption. The only systemic way to deal with that is through sortition, random selection of representatives. Some basic aptitude test can be applied (reading comprehension, math literacy) coupled with a month of intensive legal study.
A thorough check on finances prior and throughout five years after the mandate for representatives as well as their relatives would be needed.
I’ve had an idea bouncing around my head for a while about a net worth limit for representatives (meaning Legislative and Executive): when your net worth is over a certain number, maybe $5 million, you are no longer eligible to hold public office. If, while in office, your net worth suddenly and magically exceeds that limit you can finish out your term but not run again.
I love this idea. It seems doable too.
Often traveling 500+ miles for work and think of the Florida snowbirds and others – need solid absentee plan in place. Also, all ballots must be counted the day of the election – no exceptions. Count absentee and overseas ballots before Election Day.
If you restrict voting to a single day then it’s worth considering reducing weather barriers as well. Election day should be in the early fall or spring to avoid increased difficulties accessing the polling stations.
Its impressive people’s willingness to tolerate long lines in crappy weather.
I did a mail-in ballot last time but dropped it off at an in-person polling place as we are allowed to do here. The polling place was full of people and sure looked like a super-spreader event to me. I don’t expect being willing to vote in person again any time soon.