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Georgia’s 127k Missing Votes, Disproportionate to African American Neighborhoods (sharefile.com)
204 points by mcgwiz 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments

Important context from the executive summary that is missing from the headline:

- the missing votes are from the Lt. Governors race only, not the total ballot

- many people reported software glitches with that specific ballot item

- the study blames faulty programming and insists the state not use electronic voting since it apparently is not reliable

Their conclusions are strongly worded but sound reasonable to me.

Quoted from the executive summary:

• Forensic examinations of the machine programming must be promptly undertaken to obtain answers, locate the source of the errors, and, if appropriate, hold officials accountable.

• Electronic voting systems must be immediately abandoned and paper ballots adopted so that no future elections are conducted on Georgia’s unauditable machines.

• Governor Kemp, Secretary Raffensperger, and legislative leaders must abandon their plan to adopt a new ballot-marking-device electronic voting system that, like the current system, is unauditable and vulnerable to problems of the type experienced in November’s election.

I'll add as a reply, since it's a side-tangent:

When I moved to California I was really impressed by the way voting is handled here. Specifically two things:

(1) I was able to vote one block away at a neighbors garage. I don't know exactly how this works, but apparently people can volunteer to host a polling place, go through a training program to get certified to do it, and then the state will give them the equipment to do it. These polling places are just about everywhere, and it made voting exceptionally quick and easy.

The neighbors who ran it were also very courteous and professional. While there, I saw them handle several questions and problems that people had, and they did an excellent job. I was truly impressed.

(2) The ballot system was: you mark a paper ballot with a pen, and then you feed that into a scanner which electronically tallies your vote. It also keeps the paper ballot around as a record. So it would seem to offer the practical efficiency of an electronic system with the auditability of a paper system. I liked it.

Having previously voted in three other states, this was the best experience by far. I have my own complaints about California, but I'd love to see this way of handling elections become more widespread.

Glad you liked the mark/sense system, but California voting systems are not state-wide, but are county by county. The county I reside in used to have a system like that you describe (perhaps made by Eagle?), but has now moved to a display screen and paper tape system.

The nice things about the mark & scan systems are that the voter gets immediate notification of an unscannable ballot: stray marks, mis-marks, overvotes, and similar issues are correctable in real time by the voter, perhaps by exchanging the spoiled ballot for a new one, and destroying the spoiled ballot. The scanned paper ballots are also available to be rescanned for a recount or audit.

Creating a voting system for a many-race election that is intrinsically resistant to manipulation is harder that it first appears. I used to (circa 2000) think that electronic voting would supersede paper ballots in a few years. Now I think that paper ballots have a simplicity and durability that outweighs the apparent convenience of electronic approaches.

source: elections official in two states, voter registrar in one.

Right. You can get all the supposed advantages of each system, if you want.

Use a touchscreen, fill out a ballot, hit the print button, receive a paper printed ballot, inspect it for errors, drop it into a scanning system that scans and retains it. Importantly, the optical scan is done not by reading any sort of barcode printed on the paper but by reading the same English letters as the voter is inspecting.

All the convenience of electronic systems, hand recount is available and easy. Hand audit some of the machines after every election to ensure accuracy. Doesn't matter how messed up the touchscreens are, since the paper ballot can be inspected by the voter before being cast. No such thing as hanging chad or butterfly ballot problems. Zero bad ballots. Voters who skip races will be doing so intentionally. "LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: NO VOTE". If they turn that in to be scanned, that's what they wanted.

As far as I know, this is similar to the systems Georgia is looking at deploying in our upgrade.

Having a paper audit trail has become a fairly big cause, so I'd be surprised if the legislature recommends solutions that don't satisfy this.

>Creating a voting system for a many-race election that is intrinsically resistant to manipulation is harder that it first appears.

Isn’t that somewhat contradictory to the rest of your comment? The mark & scan machines work well and have for decades, and not just in voting but in standardized testing in various contexts (school, drivers license tests, etc).

It seems the voting machine element of the equation “intrinsically resistant to manipulation” is pretty much solved, if election officials would just keep what’s worked well for decades rather than transitioning to shiny new digital toys with no paper trails and poor security.

Fair call, I should have stressed that "system" is more than just marking and counting ballots. Operating a well-run election means staffing polling places with elections clerks from different parties (or no party) so they act as cross-checks on each other, making sure that spoiled or unused ballots are a) not counted, and b) accounted for, helping random citizens who are at the wrong polling place, or are not on the registry for some reason (registered elsewhere, changed their name, etc.).

In the worse cases it means dealing with voters who want to read the ballot aloud to their partner, or camp out in a voting booth for 30-40 minutes, or who are disruptive in some way. To be fair, the last general election here (Bay Area) had 21 races with 43 total significant candidates, plus 12 referendums/measures, for 67 items to count per ballot - this is not a good "count by hand" situation.

In the long run what people really want and need is an election system (including voting machines, ballots, voter rolls, polling places, staff) that gives them a sense that their votes count.

Yeah, the people part of the system a hard problem, no argument.

Interesting, I didn’t know that it varied by county. Man what a complicated system we’ve got.

It is a feature, not a bug. Variation in the system makes it harder for a single exploit or actor to rig the entire system.

I understand that notion but I’m not sure it’s true. It also may make it easier for large multinationals like Diebold to divide and conquer and sell their unauditable digital voting machines to more of the electorate, piece by piece.

DOS'ing yourself is also a vulnerability. If doing any kind of repair is so expensive and solutions are blunt, people might just find it so unpalatable to not do it.

There's some cool evidence that even this system led to non-negligible "misvoting"

> minor candidates' vote shares almost double when their names are adjacent to the names of major candidates


Oregon is vote by mail, statewide. It's much nicer!

I do miss the sense of community about voting at the local school and church. I also have some qualms about people marking ballots for other people - if you vote in person in a booth, your spouse can't see who you're actually voting for.

That's almost entirely theoretical, we hope. But I'm sure there are parents or adult children or spouses or whatever that force results that they want. The North Carolina election where people were picking up ballots and marking them doesn't seem to have been repeated in Oregon, as far as we know.

I tend to be a last-minute voter and I see other people who are scurrying into the library to deposit their ballot. Or the long line of cars at the voting office.

One thing about Multnomah County, not sure of other counties in Oregon, is that you're notified (by email, maybe text is also an option) when ballots go out, when they've received your ballot back, and when they've accepted your ballot.

Is it vote by mail only? California allows anyone to vote by mail, early vote, or vote in person.

Are there concerns of vote selling? Or mechanisms to prevent it?

In California (which has a lot of vote by mail), it’s also legal to use a camera in the voting area. In this regards, I don’t think there’s particular weaknesses.

In general the voting system can guard against false positives or false negatives. By that it can either bar legitimate voters or allow illegitimate voters. Since the USA has a historic tendency of barring the poor, minorities and women from voting; elections officials should take that into account when considering trade offs.

There continue to be election integrity issues with vote by mail. The benefits may outweigh the risks.

From an election integrity standpoint, the modern implementations of vote by mail is little different from electronic voting.


The jurisdictions that I'm aware of scan AND tabulate ballots as they are received. This permits peeking at early results. Citizens expect that votes are not tabulated until polls close on election day. Administrators argue that the pre-scanning and tabulating isn't really a count and that only the final report is a count.


Until very recently, vote by mail lead to a novelty participation bump followed by a long decline. Explained by losing the culture of voting. Postage is now prepaid in some jurisdictions, which may have lead to a +4% boost in participation, matching prior poll site participation rates. But it's too early to separate the prepaid postage boost from the overall boost in 2018. Time will time.


The transition to vote by mail is driven solely by appropriations (pork) and administrator's desire for centralization.

With vote by mail comes new business models. Whereas with poll sites we'd only pay per ballot to accommodate projected turnout plus 10%, we now pay for every voter every election. Vote by mail ballot packets are ~$2 whereas poll ballots cost ~10c. Additionally, all new tasks like signature verification and ballot tracking are new opportunities for rent seeking. Again, per voter per election, vs time & materials.

There's all new gear to buy, of course. One could argue this is no different than any other IT lifecycle.


Another way vote by mail is like electronic voting is the complete loss of voter privacy (the secret ballot). Elections are administered per precinct. Received ballots are binned. So very likely that your ballot will be the only one from your precinct in the bin. To protect the secret ballot, ballots must be sorted into precincts before processing (opening). This adds considerable effort and expense to the entire process (logistic nightmare). Last time I checked, my jurisdiction still was not doing the legally required precinct presort.


Because voters are no longer able to fix their own errors (like with the mark sense poll based systems mentioned elsewhere), administrators have to adjudication voter intent. Now that ballots are optically scanned as they are received, like a fax machine vs the mark sense systems, voter intent is adjudicated electronically, meaning there's no paper trail. Makes the manual recounts and audits kind of tricky, if not completely suspect.

Many large counties in California report mail-in ballot results many days after election day, so they're definitely not scanning ballots as they're received. (I live in Santa Clara, population 1.94 million.)

You state many other things in your comment that are incorrect. For example, if I make an error on my mail-in ballot, I get a new one... just like the instructions say. That's never happened to me, because it's pretty straightforward to not spoil my ballot.

And if the ballot is marked oddly, there is a paper trail, it's... the original ballot. As you're probably fully aware, some recounts look only at ballots that show overvoting or otherwise are judged less confident by the counting system, and more precise recounts look at all ballots. It's not that tricky, and it's certainly not completely suspect.

My county uses the same system for in-person and mail-in votes.

"Many large counties in California report mail-in ballot results many days after election day, so they're definitely not scanning ballots as they're received."

I believe ballots in CA must be postmarked by election day to be counted. Whereas OR's rule is received by election day. So the Santa Clara number will be updated as more ballots arrive. But there is a count on election day.

FWIW, IIRC, my jurisdiction's elections are certified, the final count with all the bookkeeping, two weeks after election day. Santa Clara will do something similar.

"My county uses the same system for in-person and mail-in votes."

That can't possibly be true. The ballot may look the same. But the handling, administration, bookkeeping, and tabulation is completely different.

For a long while, jurisdictions did try to use the same mark sense devices at both poll sites and central count. But they way too slow to be practical for mail ballot processing. I'd be very surprised indeed if a county your size didn't use the newer high speed imaging scanners.

"You state many other things in your comment that are incorrect."

Each jurisdiction has it's own chaotic mutant rules. And it keeps changing. So no one person can know everything about all election administration in the USA.

But your first "refutation" wasn't. Your last wasn't even wrong.

And I don't have the heart to correct the rest.


Update: I was curious what gear Santa Clara is using, when I spotted this:

"Returned Vote by Mail Ballot Processing

In accordance with California Elections Code, the ROV will begin to open, process and count returned Vote by Mail Ballot Envelopes approximately 11 days before Election Day. Vote by Mail processing will continue after Election Day until all ballots received prior to 8:00 pm on Election Day are processed."


So I was wrong about the postmarks.

I strongly encourage you to observe your elections. And attend the certification (canvas report) meetings. Seeing how the sausage is made will illuminate you.

Santa Clara County's publicly available information is actually quite good. I spent years clawing information out of my county and didn't get anything nearly as detailed: https://www.sccgov.org/sites/rov/Voting/VotingNovember2016/D...

Oops. Santa Clara is still doing "ballot enhancement" and "ballot duplication". So now I believe it's likely they're still using the mark sense (opscan) devices for mail ballots. My county switched to image scanners over a decade ago, so I assumed everyone would have switched by now. My bad.

But wait, then why does it take so long to get the final mail ballot tallies? I'd bet it's because "duplication" and "enhancement" are manual tasks, and they're manually feeding the mail ballots into the mark sense devices, which takes days.


For the record, per your own county's documentation, the only thing I was wrong about is the lack of a paper trail (enhancement, duplication). Because your county hasn't upgraded to the ballot image scanners. Yet.

> So now I believe it's likely they're still using the mark sense (opscan) devices for mail ballots.

Why do you keep on referring to "mail ballots"? We use the same ballots for mail and in-person, as I clearly said before, you know, in the part that you said "That can't possibly be true" about?

> And I don't have the heart to correct the rest.

If your goal is to have a polite discussion, you're not getting there.

I just skim read your county's manual. It's pretty stock.

Mail ballot processing is different from casting ballots at poll sites.

What should I call a ballot that's cast via the mail? "Postal ballot"?

"If your goal is to have a polite discussion, you're not getting there."

And you could have researched how your county's election administration works before responding.

You can stop being condescending already.

I didn't say that mail ballot processing was the same.

I said: "We use the same ballots for mail and in-person"

The same machines are used to count them.

So your comment "So now I believe it's likely they're still using the mark sense (opscan) devices for mail ballots." is odd because we use the same hardware to count in-person ballots that we use to count mail ballots, because they're the same physical ballots.

I had earlier tried to reply "You're right. I'll go for a walk", but got rate limited.


How a cast ballot's votes are counted is just one part of ballot processing.

To citizen's, marks on paper seems like a pretty straight forward thing. Like everyone else, I just marked my ballot and dropped it in the mail. Voila! How hard could it be?

To the election admins, poll and mail ballots are very different things.

Closest analog I can think of is "autonym".

Citizens think about the "what" and the admins think about the "how".

Poll ballots and mail ballots will never be comingled.

Poll ballots will never be "enhanced" or "duplicated".

Central count opscan machines are programmed differently. So they generate different reports. Which must be collated differently.

Signature verification is done differently.

There are many more failure modes with mail ballots. IIRC, my jurisdiction records 30+ different kinds of errors.

Mail ballot processing is a sausage factory. You gotta see to believe it.

But why am I telling you all this? I've had this same convo with 100s (1000s?) of people over the last 15 years. And I'm the conspiracy nut for daring to explain to people how their elections work.

Thanks for the thorough rundown!

I think the majority of the voter fraud in US would occur if the following 3 gates are not enforced

a) eligible to vote b) voted only once c) it is the person that voted and not his/her proxy.

It would be much better to use some biometric, verified by 3 independently developed databases. As those would be hard hard to fake

So, we know there are vulnerabilities in electronic voting machines, both sides are accusing the other of fraud, and now you are making an annecdote in favor of unsecured polling sites?

I’m glad you had a good experience, but I’m very skeptical.

Edit: it seems lots of people can disagree but no one can make an argument this is safer or more reliable in practice.

I would actually say that the decentralized and distributed nature of the polling places, combined with the well-designed voting machinery, gave me more confidence that orchestrating voter or electoral fraud would be profoundly difficult.

From my experiences in other states, I would say it’s very possible to systematically lower voter turnout by making the process laborious, in part by having only a small number of polling places that you need to drive across town to access, and then by having long lines to vote (because so many people have to use the same polling place).

Given a choice between the two I personally would favor the decentralized model.

How would you avoid something like the debacle in Broward County, Florida where boxes of ballots were found post election day? What prevents that when random people are running the show?

That never happened except in the Fox News alternaverse.


Property tracking is a solved problem. Simply chose a model based on budget.

It is absolutely not decentralized though. It’s spaced out collection, still centralized accounting. All you are doing is allowing for more potential issues between collection and transport by having an insecure position up front.

I suspect it's missing details, but I think this can be implemented in a fairly trustworthy way, using technology as an aid, but not the primary record of the election.

I think in a previous topic on HN, someone described his experience in one of the states way better. I'm describing what I remember, which may not be completely accurate:

You take the paper ballots, and you split them into lots. Each lot is passed through at-least two voting counter machines, and a recount is triggered if either machine produces a different result. Random lots are manually hand counted, to ensure they produce the same results as the voting machines.

To me, this makes the electronic counting extremely tamper resistant, as tampering with a subset of machines will very likely produce a discrepancy against other machines that is detectable. Or if the entire fleet of machines has been tampered with, this becomes apparent with the manual counts.

As for the machine at the poll, the initial scan can just be a best practice, that before the ballot is submitted can indicate to the voter if the ballot scans OK, leaving an opportunity to correct.

Of course, this is just on the counting side, all sorts of additional best practices are needed to ensure the paper ballots are transported securely, aren't lost or tampered with, are stored securely if a recount is needed, etc. And each step has scrutineers, even if the polling station is in someone's garage.

Several mark/sense systems (paper ballot marked by voter, then scanned by/for voter in their presence) have the capability to record vote counts to multiple local magnetic storage devices.

At the end of the election period, poll workers would secure the scanned paper ballots and the magnetic cartridges, and mail one set of mag. carts. to the state elections officer, and carry the paper ballots and the other set of mag carts to the local (city or county) elections office.

The second set of mag carts provide the “election night” results. A local protocol & set of procedures cross-check the carts and the number of paper ballots and the number of voters who appeared to vote at each location/precinct. The first set of mag carts provide a cross-check and a backup copy. (A small number of exhausted elections officials will incorrectly put both sets of carts in a mail box, and hilarity will ensue.)

Election operations in the US have a long and complicated history. Reinventing elections as a greenfield _de novo_ exercise without considering most of the complexities that have grown up around them is appealing, like most big rewrites. Poorly-implemented electronic voting should be viewed with honest suspicion, IMHO.

Just count all the votes by hand with scrutineers watching the counters. It's really as simple as that.

Just count the damn votes by hand.

I am unclear why ballot marking systems that are machine assisted paper systems would be unauditable or vulnerable.

They make access easier(seniors), errors are correctable, reduce physical human errors(mismark/badmark), and provide a paper and electronic ballot trail.

I wonder how elections are audited when no identification of the voter is required and people are automatically registered to vote without evidence of citizenship.

I find it very hard to believe that paper ballots are actually more reliable. I'd imagine they're just much harder to detect errors so we can't assess how bad they are.

Electronic ballots really shouldn't be a very difficult engineering challenge. We're already doing all of our financial transactions electronically and mistakes are relatively rare with an absolutely massive volume of transactions.

There are two major problems with electronic voting. (a) It's often not implemented very well (either due to malice or incompetence; probably a bit of both in some cases). (b) When something goes wrong, and it will, there's often no reliable way to figure out what or to fix it.

With sufficient effort, a 100% reliable paper count can be produced. Of course in many cases it may not get that effort, but it's possible, and this attribute is particularly important in an audit.

With sufficient effort a provably 100% reliable electronic system can be created.

Let's wait until that system exists before we consider using it.

There's reason to be suspicious of both systems, and insert the proper fraud and auditing measures for either system. It's not like election fraud didn't happen with paper ballots: ballot box stuffing and entire ballot boxes sunk into lakes.

The thing is, mitigating this for a physical system like paper ballots, requires fairly basic training to become a poll monitor. Whereas the auditing of electronic systems is substantially more complicated, not least of which when for-profit companies compel the county/state into NDA's baring 3rd party audits, which happens to be the case in Georgia.

I would trust a voting system that spit out a hashed representation of my vote more than paper ballots. Paper ballots can be fabricated or misplaced.

We witnessed people transporting votes in their personal vehicles in Broward county so there's no real chain of custody along with no verification of identity.

How would that hash prove your ballot was included in the final tally?

If that story is true, that's a problem with Broward County, not with paper ballots.

I agree with your sentiment, nevertheless every time I've used an electronic voting machine I've found it very clunky and difficult to operate. It's kind of amazing to me, it feels like the kind of thing that the hacker news crowd could solve in a long weekend.

Of course it must be more complicated than that, but even the basic user interface always feels wrong. Just let me push a button that has the candidates name on it or directly above it.

Oh well.

As a member of the "hacker news crowd", I think that paper ballots make a great solution to bad UI for an electronic voting machine. My county uses the paper ballot system described above.

Maybe having the skillset to design a reasonably usable voting machine also means having an understanding of why electronic voting is problematic, and wanting to have nothing to do with them...

You think electronic voting could be preferable paper ballots?

I checked and your county still offers touchscreen voting devices. Probably 1 per poll site, and at the early voting center, to comply with HAVA.

I clearly said the opposite, but since you seem to be confused: I prefer paper ballots.

I just wanted to be sure.

A claim that the problem with electronic voting is bad UI could imply that fixing the UI would fix electronic voting.

"We're already doing all of our financial transactions electronically and mistakes are relatively rare with an absolutely massive volume of transactions."

Voting (election administration) is not double entry accounting.

What you want would require every single person being required to cast a ballot and every ballot be counted.

It'd also eliminate the possibility of the secret ballot.

Are you sure that's what you want?

For anyone who didn't follow the Georgia Governor's race last November, it featured Brian Kemp, the Republican Secretary of State running against Stacey Abrams, the Democratic Minority Leader of the GA House of Representatives, who happens to be African-American.

The race was decided by a margin of about 55,000 votes in Kemp's favor.

Kemp, as Secretary of State, was in charge of Georgia state elections, which presented a conflict of interest for him as he sought higher office. Kemp implemented a voter suppression policy called "exact match," which helped to severely complicate the voting process for about 53,000 Georgians, 80% of whom were people of color.

More info: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/georgias-voter-suppr...

Also, voter fraud basically does not exist in the United States as per this article from the Brennan Center: https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/debunking-voter-fraud...

In fact, the most notable example of election fraud in the United States in recent memory is in NC's 9th Congressional District, where it looks like the Republican in the race cheated his way to victory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_North_Carolina%27s_9th_co...

edit: as burlesona rightly points out below, the article to which this comment is attached is about the Lt. Gov.'s race. My comment is about the general lack of integrity in Georgia's elections, and the deeply undemocratic (small-D) results that emerge from this state of affairs.

Note that this article says the missing votes are specifically in the Lieutenant Governor race, not the general ballot - ie. they’re not saying this affected the governorship.

The article says many people reported software glitches where the Lt. Governor ballot item did not display or work correctly, which matches their findings that there were a lot less vost cast than expected for that specific race.

I greatly appreciate this clarification, not to imply anyone was trying to mislead, but this information helped me better understand what was actually being said, whereas the description by GP may have led me to believe something else (not intentionally).

Having said that, the explanation by OP does add significantly to the general case of the integrity of the whole process in Georgia being suspect and need review to ensure the rights of all voters are guaranteed. Otherwise, the process is more obviously a farce than even before and will sow discontent even further.

Why don’t both of you just read the article instead of jumping to any conclusions? It’s the first bullet point on the first page.

Wait, voter fraud doesn't exist but hey look it happened just last year?

Exactly! what happened last year is election fraud, which is why I called it "election fraud" instead of "voter fraud."

An explainer: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/12/11/18134636/...

FYI, any attempt to steal an election is both (a) fraud and (b) treason, and I don't even understand why you're trying to rules-lawyer a distinction here.

Because it's an important distinction. OP is using "voter fraud" to refer to voters acting fraudulently, and "election fraud" to refer to election officials acting fraudulently. Of particular importance here is that the former is relatively rare (despite scaremongering by one side of the political spectrum) while the latter is decidedly less so.

Also, legally, neither one is treason.

> Also, legally, neither one is treason.

Haha ok man but no for real that's actual treason.

It's both undemocratic (small-d) and un-American, but it doesn't fit the rubric of "providing aid or comfort to the enemy" for treasonous behavior.

I'm sure you read the article being discussed in this subthread (https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/debunking-voter-fraud...) -- it makes the same distinction.

> (b) treason

I think you need to look up the legal definition of treason as specified by Article 3, Section 3 of the US Constitution.

1: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

Have you read it? If you don't think overthrowing our democracy is an act of war against the USA or giving our enemies aid and confort....


So... you are saying we need a system I place to prevent fraud then? What would that look like?

Paper ballots with a public count work quite well. A number of countries have discontinues use of electronic voting in the last decade or so due to issues like this, and/or the fear of such issues.

How do protect for situations like boxes of paper ballots that showing up in random places in Broward County this last election?

As is pretty clear from the linked Vox article, the proposed solutions for largely nonexistent voter fraud would have zero impact on this sort of election fraud.

Nice try, Mr. von Spakovsky.

Voter fraud is someone who shouldn't be voting but votes. It's basically nonexistent. This is election fraud--people who are allowed to vote being blocked in some fashion. It's definitely up there in the Republican playbook.

Note that the Republican obsession with voter fraud is actually an attempt to justify election fraud.

Popular quote by Jim Acosta (CNN):

CNN’s Jim Acosta tweeted “voter fraud in this country is actually very rare.”

Considered to be a justification for to continue voter fraud (because getting ineligible people to vote (and multiple times) ) -- is likely helping democrats).

[1] https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/voter-fraud-exists-even-thou...

You folks think that Russians interfered with our election results, I would think you would thusly support securing our elections...

What the Republicans are trying to do does absolutely nothing about what Russia appears to have done.

"Securing" our elections is about suppressing the vote of the poor, not about stopping fraudulent voting.

> Also, voter fraud basically does not exist in the United States as per this article from the Brennan Center: https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/debunking-voter-fraud.... In fact, the most notable example of election fraud in the United States in recent memory is in NC's 9th Congressional District...

So fraud doesn’t exist but then fraud does exist? Which is it?

People have said it before, and it will be said again, but until we have much more accountability and transparency, electronic voting machines are NOT to be trusted and should not be used in any official capacity.

It's also important to note that the most effective forms of voter suppression are the ones that prevent people from voting in the first place.

No amount (or lack thereof) of technology matters if you get wrongly purged off the voter rolls.

An equivalent to being wrongly purged is when somebody voting the other way is wrongly not purged.

That’s usually not true. Most people are purged because they’re supposedly dead or moved. Those people usually aren’t voting (in that location) anyway, so failing to purge them does little. Even for people who might actually vote there, such as felons or non-citizens, they face severe legal consequences for voting when they’re not allowed to, even if registered, so they usually won’t vote either.

Incorrectly purging people is way worse than incorrectly not purging people.

No, it's not. People have a right to vote. As with criminal prosecutions, the standard should be very high to remove that right from someone - mistakes are a big deal.

In some states, the standard for purging has been intentionally made overly strict - "Hyphenated-Name" doesn't match the "Hyphenated Name" the state has on file, so they get purged. It helps when the Secretary of State making the rules is also running for Governor:


> Minority voters are more likely statistically to have names with hyphens or suffixes or other punctuation that can make it more difficult to match their name in databases, experts noted. That makes them more likely to get caught up in the "exact match" law.

People don't have the right to vote, at least not unconditionally. That's not how this works, nor how it has ever worked.

If you register to vote in Georgia, then move to Ohio and register there, you might have the right to vote in Ohio. You don't have the right to vote in Georgia, nor does anybody else have the right to vote in Georgia with your identity.

If you register with "Hyphenated-Name" after having previously registered with "Hyphenated Name", that doesn't mean you get to vote twice! You don't have that right.

Mistakes are a big deal. An improper vote is a denial of the rights of the legitimate voters to have their votes properly counted.

Fixing all the issues is difficult, but there is one simple improvement: have the federal government, perhaps the social security administration, publish a mapping from human to voting district.

You're setting up several strawmen here.

> People don't have the right to vote, at least not unconditionally.

None of our rights are unconditional. You can give up free speech rights by joining the military, and we've got things like noise ordinances. You can lose your right to bear arms by being a felon. Et cetera, et cetera.

> If you register to vote in Georgia, then move to Ohio and register there, you might have the right to vote in Ohio. You don't have the right to vote in Georgia, nor does anybody else have the right to vote in Georgia with your identity.

No one has argued otherwise.

> If you register with "Hyphenated-Name" after having previously registered with "Hyphenated Name", that doesn't mean you get to vote twice! You don't have that right.

That's not what's being discussed, at all.

People register to vote as "Hyphenated-Name". The state checks their databases and doesn't find a matching name because they got their driver's license years ago as "Hyphenated Name" (or because the DMV doesn't support a hyphen, or any number of other reasons). They get purged off the rolls.

> Mistakes are a big deal. An improper vote is a denial of the rights of the legitimate voters to have their votes properly counted.

Most people improperly on the rolls aren't improperly voting. If they moved to another state, they're almost certainly not coming back to double their vote. If they died, the chances of someone else pretending to be them is vanishingly small given the severe repercussions of getting caught (which has to be balanced against the small chance of a single vote making a big difference).

  The state checks their databases and doesn't find a matching name because they got their driver's license years ago
Having a driver's license isn't even a prerequisite to vote, nor does it confer eligibility to vote.

Please, read the linked Politifact article. There's a reason I included it.

> Under a 2017 Georgia law, a voter registration application is complete if information on that form exactly matches records kept by Georgia’s Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration.

Driver's license isn't required to vote, but if you have one, your voter registration form has to exactly match it. If you don't have one, you've got the same issue with the Social Security Administration with hyphenated versus non-hyphenated, misspellings, character limits (NYS DMV knows me as "C, M" for example), etc.

  Driver's license isn't required to vote
... which is exactly what I wrote.

I never said it's required to vote.

I said that if they have one, the State of Georgia checks that your voter registration matches your name exactly on your driver's license, and rejects your registration if it doesn't.

This becomes an especially crude way of purging when you realize that various systems deal with "complex" names differently.

That is extremely rare in most places, however.

Improperly "purged" voters can still submit provisional ballots and be restored to the rolls automatically.

Paper ballots disappear too though, don't they? What do you do when elections are expensive and you detect an error, and you can't find who cast the ballot?

It is resource-intensive yet viable to track every paper ballot throughout the process. Digital ballots have no such guarantees.

The best option to me seems to be scanned paper ballots, which offers the ability to perform analog recounts when there is suspicion of problems with the digital count.

(Disclaimer: only a distant observer of this, there may be better options.)

For context like 2018 congressional elections, or 2020 elections, what does it mean to track down paper ballots, such as to make sure the final count is complete? At least it sounds like de-anonymizing votes.

Or does it mean it's so logistically unpalatable that you can bet on it not happening? Same thing with recount as a remedy to detected anamoly; it's theoretically possible. But is it so unpalatable that a gambler may gamble well on an event?

Disappearing a lot of paper ballots requires a lot of people working together and a lot of planning, making it more likely someone will talk and giving investigators a better chance of figuring out what went wrong. It also increases the odds of an incriminating paper trail being made of the activities.

The fundamental difference between computer systems and paper systems is that the effort required to corrupt a computer system is mostly unrelated to the size of the corruption. Paper systems require a lot more effort for a large effect.

Why do paper systems require more effort to hack? People just have to be able to predict where close elections are located and botch a few elections. The incentive to do so is everywhere. There have been so many close elections in modern memory.

What do you do when you detect anomaly? Have an unpalatably expensive recount? That can be expensive enough to use as a reliable weapon. How do you know if the final count is complete? Do you track down every voter? These things sound expensive enough to simply not happen.

Instead one side detects enough anomaly for a court to intervene, and the court considers blunt options or leaving the results as-is. For things like Bush v Gore the court is under enormous pressure to act quickly and perfectly, and they voted along party lines.

The gold standard for election integrity is the Australian ballot (private voting, public counting), where ballots are issued & cast at poll sites, and tabulated on site when the polls close.

In my jurisdiction, trust is built on mutual distrust. Every receipt, seal, report, lock had to be handled and signed off by members of opposing parties.

Sure, it's possible to corrupt poll site based elections. But you have to corrupt many sites. You'd also have to corrupt upstream and downstream actors as well. Super unlikely to go unnoticed.

I worked as a poll inspector.

Typically, there are ballot accountability reports. eg 100 ballots printed for election day. 50 ballots issued, 49 ballots cast, 1 ballot spoiled, 50 unused ballots. 100 ballots returned to election HQ (central count).

Adding or removing ballots from poll site based elections would be noticed.

I can't speak to (all) other jurisdictions, so YMMV.

What problem are you trying to solve? It sounds like you want to make perfection the enemy of the good.

I wonder what will come of this now. Is there any way to have a 'redo'? If there isn't, how could there ever be justice in the event this was intentional?

Ask anyone if their vote was counted. The only honest answer is, "I'm not sure." That is concerning.

Seems like a good kind of work to spread, thanks for sharing.

In the last election, I was able to tell that my early-voting paper ballot actually reached the counting machine because of the receipt system.

That doesn't cover every failure mode, but it's pretty good compared to nothing.

(And do you really think calling any other answer dishonest is going to help the discussion?)

What if every vote had an ID / random number attached to it, identifying you, and then when they are counted every number that was read and counted gets posted up on some database or broadcast, or even in paper form to be collected at another polling station, so you know for sure your vote counted?

Just spitballing here, because it seems like an easy problem to solve, the US is just notoriously stubborn when it comes to mixing up the election process.

>What if every vote had an ID / random number attached to it, identifying you

Votes must not be attributable to any given person, or else the potential for coercion exists.

I read GP as simply verifying that a particular ballot made it into the count, not verifying what the votes on that ballot happened to be. That seems less problematic with respect to buying or coercing votes. I'm not convinced that "lost ballots" are a big problem, but such a system would be a way of checking that.

Or vote buying.

That would destroy the secret ballot, so isn't appropriate for a democratic country.

Many developed democracies either never stopped using a pure paper ballot, or have gone back to it over the last decade or so. For all its flaws, it's easier to make safer than electronic voting.

I get something similar in CA. I can look online and see that I voted.

That’s public info and should be audited.

The part that remains secret is who/what I voted for.


A stylistic point perhaps, but the mention of Georgia makes me think of the country, not the state. That's further reinforced by the missing votes (sorry Georgia (country)), so its only by the time I got to 'African' that I got an inkling that something was wrong, and instantly went back to reread the title again, before noticing the last 2 words.

Shouldn't there be a convention of writing Georgia (US) or (state)?

I can track my mail in ballot (as a resident of SF) on the SF elections website...one reason among many why I prefer vs going in-person.

If I were the one overseeing the election while also running for governor (as Brian Kemp was, and now, successfully attained), I would do everything in my power to make the election be as transparently fair as possible. But as far as this Californian can tell, that was definitely not the case:

1. the voting machines used were known well in advance to be badly vulnerable [0]:

He said hackers could infect election computers by first gaining access to a state employee’s computer, possibly by tricking him or her into clicking on a dangerous link in an email. Once the malware is on one machine, it could reach central election systems through internal networks, USB devices or memory cards.

J. Alex Halderman prepares to demonstrate Monday at Georgia Tech how easy it is to hack Georgia’s electronic voting machines. In a hypothetical election, Halderman changed a 2-2 vote between George Washington and Benedict Arnold to make Arnold the winner by 3-1.

Election computers could also be subverted in person, by someone like a janitor or a temporary worker, Halderman said. Individual voting machines could be tampered with if someone unlocked the latch that protects the memory card port.

2. He reported security researchers (hired by state Democrats) to the FBI for trying to 'hack the system' [1], whereas...

In 2015, Kemp’s office inadvertently released the Social Security numbers and other identifying information of millions of Georgia voters. His office blamed a clerical error.

[...]His office made headlines again last year after security experts disclosed a gaping security hole that wasn’t fixed until six months after it was first reported to election authorities. Personal data was again exposed for Georgia voters — 6.7 million at the time — as were passwords used by county officials to access files.


3. Georgia implemented a use-it-or-lose-it policy for voting. People found out that because they didn't vote in the past that they had been purged from the register of voters. That's insane to me, but apparently the Supreme Court determined it was constitutional. Georgia also implemented extremely strict name-matching (i.e. make sure that you did not use a hyphen when writing your name one place and a space when writing it in another, because then they won't match). [2]

But voting rights advocates fear that “use it or lose it” purges could be used as a voter suppression tactic — along with voter ID requirements, gerrymandering, polling place changes or closures, and registration obstacles — that often help conservative candidates, because infrequent voters tend to be younger, poorer and people of color who are more likely to favor Democrats. For instance, the APM Reports investigation found that such purges in Ohio disproportionately affected urban, Democratic-leaning counties.

[0] https://www.ajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/how-...

[1] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/a-look-at-the-election...

[2] https://www.wabe.org/georgia-purged-about-107000-people-from...


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