Rigged election suspicions illustrate need for trust in voting systems
© Greg Nash

“Rigged” elections. Hacking by foreign agents. Antiquated voting machines.

Suspicions and dire predictions about elections are running rampant right now.

On the night of November 8, candidates across the country will declare victory in the general election. But with reports of attempts to disrupt — or at least question — the result of the presidential contest, will the losers in any race trust the results enough to genuinely concede defeat?  Will their supporters accept the results as valid? How will election officials deal with allegations of “rigged” elections?

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As Election Day approaches, we should remind ourselves that there are actually two purposes of an election: to pick the winners and to confer the legitimacy necessary to govern. Some say, that legitimacy is achieved when the loser is convinced that they really lost.

The 2000 presidential election remains the most prominent recent example of how flaws in the voting system affect the legitimacy of the winner. So serious was the problem that Congress passed the $3.8 billion Help America Vote Act of 2002 to upgrade America’s voting systems. But it has taken fourteen years for technology to emerge that can visually convince the loser of the likely outcome of a careful hand count.

As a volunteer for a presidential campaign in 2008, I saw firsthand how the systems that were purchased just three years earlier were already obsolete. Six years later, in January 2014, a bipartisan presidential commission issued a scathing report on the “impending crisis” in elections. The Commission on Election Administration, formed to address voting issues in the 2012 election, cited two issues: the age of voting equipment and a cumbersome certification process that stifles innovation and retards the adoption of new technology.

I knew there had to be a private sector solution to the incredibly consequential public concern over election transparency. For eleven years as a senior executive at Lotus/IBM, I had experience bringing mission-critical, secure systems to a worldwide market. I have taken that knowledge and focused all my time and energy for seven years to achieve a single goal: to create a technology and build an organization that brings transparency to the way votes are counted in democratic elections.

We invented a new class of tools that bring powerful visualization technologies to elections. One of these tools can, like an x-ray of a bone fracture, in a matter of minutes show the unambiguous outcome of a close contest cast on hundreds of thousands of ballots.

For election officials, transparency technology presents the evidence of the entire electorate’s intent — not just a single voter’s ballot — allowing them to decide the outcome, share their findings broadly and decisively answer those who would cast doubt without evidence.

Transparency technology brings finality and closure for both winning and losing candidates, their supporters and the public — even in the closest of contests. Winning candidates have absolute proof of their victory; losing candidates can convince their supporters that they fairly lost. Concerns of any kind can be quickly tested against hard evidence.

Voting systems that incorporate transparency technology are now a reality. In November, nine counties in Oregon will use a transparent voting system to tally and report the official results from 60% of the state’s voters. The system was first used in Multnomah County, Oregon, in the May Primary, where it provided convincing evidence to three candidates in very close elections that they had fairly lost.

The Maryland State Board of Elections will use transparency technology in the General Election to conduct the nation’s first 100% independent audit of every contest on every ballot cast in all 24 counties. These audits will ensure that every voting machine is working properly.

On November 8, voters in over 8,000 election jurisdictions across the United States will pick winners in over 50,000 contests. But in less than three years, the “impending crisis” of 2014 has been overtaken by a new, more insidious, threat to our democracy: widespread distrust in elections. According to Pew Research, the public’s trust in election results is at a twelve-year low. That is why technology that visualizes the electorate’s intent represents a breakthrough in transparency for democratic elections.

After this election cycle is over, state and local governments will begin to replace their antiquated voting systems. The new systems will decide America’s elections for the next decade. It is imperative that, before purchase decisions are made, citizens demand that voting systems be selected on their ability to restore public trust that every ballot cast was counted as the voter intended.

Larry Moore is the Founder and CEO of Clear Ballot Group, based out of Boston, MA


 

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