Sometimes you have to use your imagination...

The world of elections administration can sometimes be a little surreal, so I occasionally play mind games to keep myself grounded in common sense.

Mind game #1: When the difficulty of advocating for post-election audits gets me down, I imagine that the US had done what the IT professionals recommended from the start: Included routine verification of the machines' output into election routines all along. Then I imagine how hard it would be if we were trying to convince people to give up routine post-election audits. Not only would we be ridiculed, we'd probably be suspected of criminal intentions.

Mind game #2: Imagine that you are the elections clerk in a city that has a routine, normal habit of making the voter-marked paper ballots available for public inspection after every election. The partisan crazies learned years ago that wrangling over individual ballots was wasted time and energy. Now they, like all the citizens and candidates (and all the would-be election thieves) are accustomed to having the ability to verify the accuracy of the election results if they want to. Now imagine your mayor orders you to seal the ballots up on Election Night, store them under lock and key for many months, and then incinerate them before they ever see the light of day.  Can you imagine any honorable motives for the mayor's order? How would you explain this policy change to the residents of your city?

Mind game #3: Imagine that you are a computer programmer who has been employed by a voting machine company or an independent testing lab for a decade or so. You've come to know the software and how the program updates and patches are distributed among the various jurisdictions. You know which jurisdictions use which type of machines; that none of them perform routine post-election audits; and that none will ever recount any race in which the results have more than a 2% spread between the winner and the candidate who came in second. You know that when miscounts are discovered, there's never an independent investigation, so that in the extremely unlikely event your miscount is noticed, you'll be able to say "Darn it, a glitch!" and go on with your work. You know that some are willing to pay millions for what you have to sell.

On this honor system, would you resist the temptation of making a few elections come out the way you want them to--or would you go ahead and do it? Knowing that there are many people like this today, how do you suppose they resist the temptation to make some elections come out they way they want--or do they?

That last mind game isn't very much fun; I don't play it often.


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  • commented 2015-02-25 15:03:39 -0600
    I would like to have the problem in #1. But #3 would be tough especially if you had the chance to stop someone like a Walker.