I watched while the bulky machine swallowed my two oversized pages. My offspring had described my activity as “Daddy is drawing circles”. It looked like one of those older laser printers, but in reverse. I stared at it for a few seconds longer than necessary. I felt that I needed something to come out. An acknowledgement of some kind. I had spent some time filling out the circles just so with the black marker. I had put some thought into what I voted for. I wanted to know: did the machine understand what I had voted for? I did not expect it to understand why, or what went on in my head, my hopes and aspirations, my desire to be part of a process, but I did expect to get some indication that it had correctly understood what I had filled out.
Why then did I not get a voting receipt?
I think we have the technology for this. I think we have the money for this. All I want is a slip of paper. It doesn’t even have to be letter size. It should have a random number on it. – or even just a serial number – machine #, voter # – followed by a string indicating who I had voted for. Perhaps a series of 0s and 1s to indicate my voting pattern.
At the end of the day all of these go into into a giant spreadsheet with a 100 million rows. It will appear on votes.gov. You can choose to search this giant page with the find function in your browser. You can choose to match the voting pattern there with the pattern on your slip. The pattern also matches in a simple way with the items on the ballot. If you see a discrepancy, you need to make some noise about it. You can, if you so wish, download this spreadsheet and add up the numbers yourself and verify, district by district across the country, the election results for yourself. Yes we have the technology to do this.
I can think of some misuses. There can be coercion for voting – you can intimidate someone to vote in a particular way and then demand the slip as evidence. But there is a big crime here that needs reporting. And I suspect that this is not a problem in these United States. You could falsify the slip and try and cast doubt on the election results. But then this has to be a concerted effort to get any useful traction and would be soon found out.
I’m told we have low voter turnout. I’m told that the only way we get people to come out and vote is to pit neighbor against neighbor and tell them the person next door from whom they borrow power tools is a godless communist, or whatever the current fashionable epithet is for the “other side”.
I have an idea. Have a lottery with the elections. Your election receipt is your ticket. We add an additional random number to your ticket that doesn’t appear in the public record, just on the slip. Your secret random number is the number you play. How much do we spend on the elections? How about we budget about a million dollars for prizes to this lottery. The ticket is free. And if some one can’t be bothered to fill in a few circles for a free ticket to a million dollar lottery, well, we tried.
So, why don’t we have an audit trail for elections, why can’t I see all the votes on a giant spreadsheet, and why is my receipt not a lottery ticket?