Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He has been published in the Boston Globe and the Baltimore Sun.
After the political cost she has paid by her actions being misinterpreted as favoring one major party candidate or another, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein seems to be stalling in her laudable efforts to cast light on the many problems with the American election system. While she still has the attention of the media, she could do much more to advance the solution to these problems.
We now know that US voting is a mess. In Michigan, The Detroit News reported that half of Detroit votes may be ineligible for recount, in part because 87 optical scan vote-counting machines "broke" on election day. And in Pennsylvania, recount efforts ran up against the ticklish problem that, in most counties, there is nothing to recount. Without paper ballots or even paper trail "receipts" which accompany many touch-screen systems, most PA precincts use entirely electronic voting systems, which are the least desirable systems from the standpoint of election integrity, according to experts.
And yet, what is the point of pointing out problems without also calling attention to known solutions to those problems, if they exist? In the field of election integrity, a community of activists has been working for a long time on finding solutions to the very issues Stein is uncovering. In 2003, the founder of Black Box Voting, Bev Harris, obtained the the source code of voting machine manufacturer Diebold Election Systems. After discovering how easily elections results can be manipulated on machines which count the votes on paper ballots, Harris's work launched a movement of activists dedicated to fair, honest, and transparent elections.
Many of these experts and activists recently came together at a conference in Richland, California, to discuss the current state of election integrity in the US. Although the range of topics was wide, with dozens of speakers presenting over the course of two days, there is remarkable consensus across the board on what constitutes the safest, most trustworthy system of voting, which is also that which is used, after trial and error with many systems, in much of Europe and the advanced world.
In Germany, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Finland, and 53 other countries, the voters enjoy nationwide systems, no matter how small or large the city or town, employing paper ballots, counted by hand, starting at the closing of the polls, in the polling stations where the votes are taken. This is broadly the recommendation of election integrity experts around the world. But not just that. In addition, the "gold standard" for honest elections means that the ballots are counted in public, including observers from the parties who can see the markings. At the start of the day, the ballot boxes are shown to be empty.
It will be the work of the state legislatures to usher in such systems, and ban the electronic vote counting machines as countries such as Germany have done. Estimates are that with little more than present average precinct staffing, most precincts can be done by the morning after election day.
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