VOTING CHALLENGES: AN OVERVIEW
VOTING IS UNDER SIEGE, AT EVERY STATE IN THE GAME
Constitutional vulnerabilities. A lack of federal guidelines and protections. The failure to prohibit conflicts of interest. Inaccurate voter rolls that citizens are forced to update, emailed back and forth with unencrypted passwords. Tools to correct the rolls that purge millions of eligible citizens from the rolls. Inadequate training for elections officials, and funding of our Boards of Elections. A dwindling, older group of poll workers. Outdated, hackable machines. Machines that leave no paper trail, and use proprietary (dark) software that can't be, verified. No background checks on those entrusted with our counting technology. Provisional ballots that aren't recounted, or even counted the first time. Antiquated, nonsensical recount laws, and a failure to mandate robust, risk-limiting audits. Frightening new technology capable of orchestrating hacking on an unprecedented scale, and efforts by foreign actors to use it.
"Like our roads and bridges, our democracy's critical infrastructure
is in desperate need of repair." —Joyce Hackett
Is Voting a privilege? A right? A fundamental right?
American citizens do not inherently have the vote in the Constitution, and in that respect, we're in the company of Lybia and Chechnya. The Constitution allows states to define who can vote, and to restrict the franchise. Our Amendments say only that voting may not be restricted on the basis of race, sex, or the ability to pay a poll tax. And many states strip people who have committed a crime of their right to vote, even long after they've served their sentence. right now, Maine and Vermont are the only states that enable every citizen, even those who are incarcerated to vote.
REGISTRATION: We Make It Hard
America's one of only four countries in the world where the burden of registration falls on citizens, and not the state. Less than 75% of our citizens are registered.And even citizens who do try to register can find that their paper registration doesn't get processed. In GA, one voting organization gathered 81,000 registrations only to find that only 41,000 were processed. In AZ, the incoming Secretary of State found 91,000 registrations sitting in boxes, supposedly because the state didn't know whether or not the registrants were citizens. Paper registrations are subjected to "strict accuracy" requirements, in which politicians use minor differences, or words not spelled out, to reject a voter's registration.
Once registered, too many citizens are thrown off the voter rolls by purges. Two main types work to remove inaccurate records in ways that themselves are highly inaccurate. Infrequent-voter purges, which are often challenged in court, impact minorities disproportionately. And Interstate CrossCheck, an interstate records comparer used by 28 states, has been found to yield 200 false positives for every one duplicate found -- and maintains its records in a manner that's less secure than your Twitter account.
ACCESS: A Shell Game Leaving Voters Holding the Bag
Turnout is a function of how easy, or hard, we make it to vote. Does your polling place have a sidewalk? Has it been moved too frequently? Can you get there during the days or hours it's open, without losing your job? Are there enough polling places in your district? Do you need an excuse to vote absentee? Do the machines there function for the entire voting day? Are you standing in long lines? Do you have the ID your state requires -- or even know what ID that is? Have misleading robocalls or flyers, or intimidating policies, discouraged you from voting? All these prevent eligible voters from casting a ballot. And many are used deliberately to skew which representative the public would choose.
VERIFICATION: Outdated, Vulnerable Systems Susceptible to Breakdown and Hacking
Once you cast a ballot, has your vote actually been counted? Is your state using electronic voting machines that leave no trace? Are the machines outdated, and are your voting officials buying used parts on eBay? Have security patches been installed? Do the principals who own the voting machine manufacturing company working on the campaign of one of the candidates? Have they recently resigned to become a candidate? Is your Secretary of State, who is responsible for administering the election, also competing in that race? Does your state conduct robust risk-limiting audits?