The U.S. Election in 2020 was not the fraud-based train wreck that Republicans (one, in particular) would have us believe; but it was rife with confusion, security risks, identity concerns, physical threats—from elements as large as human beings to as small as viruses—and widespread disenfranchisement, accidentally and intentionally, largely along the artificially-elevated social stratification of a nonsensical metric, differences in skin color. All so the numbers of often-manually-counted votes could be given to special representatives who were, ultimately, free to discard those votes and themselves vote any way they chose, to elect the next President of the United States. In an election “season” designed to take almost a year from start to finish.
If you didn’t know any better, it would seem as if the country’s voting system was designed in the 1700s.
Oh, wait. It was.
America’s Founding Fathers spent a lot of time designing a government that was intended to be fair and publicly accountable, acting in the country’s best interests as opposed to the whims of individuals looking to game the system. They also created a voting system designed for the same ends. In the 1700s, that meant accommodating adults who often had limited educations (through no fault of their own), received news sparingly (if at all) at the speed of carriers as likely to be on foot as by horse, and were much more isolated from their fellow citizens outside of their immediate district so as to know little to nothing about their fellows’ needs or desires.
It also meant that the process of voting had to allow for enough time for a back-and-forth between voters and citizens, to collect votes and return them to voting centers, manually count those votes and send that count to the seat of government. Those votes were certified by signatures—even if that signatures was merely an X—because at that time, smaller communities knew each other and could vouch for a vote by an local farmer who couldn’t read. Then men were inaugurated, and the resultant changes to government had to be communicated to the people of the land. In the age of horseback (and often foot), that could take months.
Fast forward to the 2000s, and we find few real changes to that voting system of 300 years ago. Yes, we can use automated systems to count ballots faster; and we can transmit information at close to the speed of light; But we are still allowing for months of time for voters to hear from politicians, taking votes on paper slips, physically moving them around the country, allowing almost three months to certify the ballots and finally inaugurate someone.
And those paper ballots are still subject to potential tampering, damage or loss before they get from the collection center, collection box or mail system to the counting location. Ultimately, they are just paper, and paper is far from a permanent or durable medium. Whereas we could be taking advantage of more modern systems available right now, to improve all of those voting issues.
The power of modern computing, for instance, has barely been applied to the processing or storage of nationwide voting systems outside of running manual counting machines. Compare this to television programs that use computers to tally and provide results of phone-based voting in realtime, allowing the presentation of candidates, voting and results generation within the show’s hour-long run.
Security is clearly more of a factor in national voting than it is on a TV show; but today we have biometric sensor technology and 2-factor verification considered secure enough for financial institutions and government accounts. They’re available on private owners’ cellphones and can be added to home computers. People use them every day to conduct private and sensitive business, and often get messages by text or email confirming their activities or giving them time to cancel fraudulent transactions. Surely such a system, robust enough for your bank and other money-handling establishments, can be used to verify identities well enough to establish voter security.
And back to the computers, which can not only tabulate and store those responses in realtime, but they can be separated and cross-connected to provide protected redundancy, encrypted data-comparison and further security. The data they hold can be parsed out only as required to multiple parties, using the same security and verification processes, giving users a more comprehensive readout of voting data without compromising individual privacy.
And for those concerned about the potential volatility of computer-based data, those results can be copied in a coded fashion to any number of mediums (including, gasp! paper)—even all of them if you’re that
paranoid thorough—to be stored in secure locations for later recalling if necessary.
This system, providing accurate one-person-one-vote data, will also remove the need for the Electoral College, the ability to re-allocate voter blocks at will by political appointees, and remove the effectiveness of gerrymandering nationwide. Even Russia criticizes the U.S. for continuing to use the Electoral Congress; and gerrymandering, a system used to directly and deliberately take political power from African communities, is long overdue for being demolished.
With a system that can accurately record, tabulate and provide results literally seconds after the endtime of an election period, send voters confirmations for their votes at any time during or after the elections, and redundantly store that data in redundant locations, the time given to the voter-based processes and communicating data about those votes can be reduced to seconds instead of months. It would also remove so many of the inherent risks of paper-based voting and the rigors of having to visit specific locations at specific times or worrying about deadlines related to remote voting.
Much of the rest of the time used for the election process includes time spent on campaigning, running commercials, etc… which can take up as much as a year, a period of time that only dilutes the candidate’s message the further it is from election time. This should also be given to computers to handle. Instead of annoying and misleading commercials filled with one-sided claims about a candidate’s record or capabilities, a central database available to everyone should store a complete and verified record of the candidate’s political resume, plus any comments from reputable news services on their actual performance, history and results. A voter only has to look up a candidate’s name to see their resume, voting records and any (hopefully non-biased) comments made about them.
This record will be updated over time and will always be available to voters to do their own spot-checks. And instead of dragging out the promotion process over months, voters can do their research at any time, one day, one week or one minute before election time.
I’ve advocated before on the increased use of modern computers, devices the Founding Fathers could have scarcely dreamed of, in modern government systems. Those same computers, or systems tied to them, can similarly be used to bring modern voting into the 21st century as well. It is well past time we used them, not only to make the voting process faster, more secure and more accessible, but to eliminate many of the areas where inaccuracy, fraud and security risks are present. All of this can reduce our election “season” from a year to a single month.
We, as occupants of the modern world, need to start the process of bringing our voting process up-to-date immediately. We owe it to ourselves to make sure our ability to access political information, make informed votes and see our votes counted properly in realtime, is as robust and accurate as our being able to access and use our financial accounts. Users will no longer tolerate financial transactions that don’t get recorded and verified within 24 hours of our making them; why should national voting be any less important, or any less securely and accurately handled?