Voter suppression or empowerment?

This whole faux issue of accusing Republicans of promoting voter suppression by wanting positive ID at the polls brings up a subject that I have been solving in my mind for the past 30 years... how to stop real voter fraud at the ballot box. I would like to throw my two cents worth out there for comment.

First, I am a strong believer in requiring just a little bit of effort in order to be allowed to vote. Now, before the left goes off hollering that voting is a right that cannot and should not be suppressed by any method, according to the Constitution of the United States, there is no explicit right to vote. Most voting rights are granted by the states and by extension apply to the Federal elections. In fact, when the Constitution was written, the people actually voted for only one office, their Representative. The Senate was chosen by the several states' governing bodies, and the President and Vice President were chosen by Electors. These Electors were chosen by various state methods, but I digress.

Second, just because something is a right, does not mean that there is no responsibility attached to it. The second amendment gives citizens the right to keep and bear arms, but can anyone imagine purchasing a gun without positive ID?

Voter registration is a simple process and if you vote on a semi-regular basis, you can continue to vote unabated for the rest of your life, but when you show up to vote, you just need to show that you are who you say you are.

So, once you are properly registered, how can we best vote efficiently and without fraud? Here is how I would do it.

(Note: this proposal covers 99.9% of cases. I will not get into how, say, a missionary in India for 10 years with no property in the US can vote absentee...)

You arrive at your polling place or at a voting center in the case of early voting. You show your photo identification and the registrar finds your name on a list (preferably an electronic list) and checks it off showing that you have voted. (Hopefully, your ID has a barcode which can be scanned to further reduce human error.) Once your name has been checked, you are handed a random token which will be taken to a voting machine where you would insert the token.

The machine comes alive. You are presented with the various elections, candidates, referenda, or propositions on a digital screen. You flip through the screens and make your selections. If you choose not to vote on a page, you can skip it or vote for "None of the Above". When you are finished, you would be presented with a synopsis of your choices. At this point you can go back and make any changes desired. When you are satisfied, you select Submit.

Your submission would cause a receipt to be printed out, just like you get from the ATM machine or a gas pump. This receipt would have a registration number and a bar code representing that number. Below it would be a synopsis of how you voted:

President: CandidateA
Senate: CandidateB
Rep-2: CandidateC
Mayor: CandidateD
Council-13: CandidateE
School Board: CandidateF
Light Rail Question: YES
Proposition 27: YES
Proposition 28: NO

Nothing on this receipt identifies you. Because you received a random token to start the voting machine, this cannot identify you either.

You would take this receipt and either pocket it or drop it in a sealed container before you leave the polls. If, for some reason, this receipt does not match what you submitted, you can take it to a poll worker where they would negate this transaction and allow you to begin the process anew.

The receipt is critical to ensure that there is no fraud. Two possible situations happen, you take your receipt or you toss it. If you keep it, you can go to a website, scan or punch in the number and the screen should show you your submission and it should match your receipt. (This is similar to how you can take your lottery receipt to 7-11 and they can scan it and tell you immediately if you are a winner.)

The second situation would be that you toss your receipt. In every precinct, these containers would be collected and after the election, these receipts can be scanned and compared by independent auditors if needed. There is no way that a the two cannot match unless something is amiss in the system. Because, ALL voters get a receipt, the system does not know who is keeping and who is tossing. If someone changes a vote in the system, then the system would show it upon audit. If someone on the inside wanted to delete votes, it will show upon audit. If someone wanted to add votes, the number of voters would not match how many were registered at the desk.

Could someone game the system? Sure they could, but it would take a huge conspiracy involving many people to make it happen. The upside? Most precincts could report their results back to City Hall in seconds  after the polls close.

I used to think that you should be able to use a card that looks like an ATM card and go to an electronic terminal to vote, or you could log in on a computer to vote. Using the mag strip card at an unattended terminal could be open to ballot stuffing if someone got hold of everyone's card at an senior center and ran down and voted in their place. Logging in on a computer could have the same results, plus, back to my thesis that there should be some effort expended in order to vote... it is just too easy.

I think that covers it. I can see a point in the not too distant future where we can use an iPad or Android tablet to run the polls. This would bring the price way down and help keep voter fraud at a bare minimum.


Craig Hollins said…
An easier way - in other countries where voting fraud is a problem and ID is very rare (many African countries for example) they require a finger to be dipped into a pot of ink. This will stain your finger for a few days ensuring you can't vote twice. Amputees can have another part of their body dabbed with the ink such as an ear. Zero cost to the voter and stops multiple voting without the need for ID.

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