Taking a different approach

What’s the most important thing about an election? It’s the results.

If that’s true, what’s the second most important thing about an election? It’s the verification of those results. When it comes to elections, people don’t just take the results as presented, they challenge them. They need to know how the election process came up with those results in order to ensure that it was a free and fair Election.

Or do they?

When using hand counted paper ballots, election integrity assurance can be obtained by deploying a properly observed election process along with well-trained registrars and teller committees. So an inspection of all processes is essential. The same goes for the counting of ballots by the people in the teller committee.

Chasing ghosts

However when using machine counts, there are no people counting - so inspectors try to verify the machine counting process. But there’s a couple of ways you can go about this. You can take the "traditional" approach where inspectors attempt to dissect everything, delving into the minutia of detail regarding the composition of the systems that produce the result. They try and dive into security, network access and all of that. It costs a lot of money and makes vendors rich, but does absolutely nothing to ensure election integrity.

The problem is ... they are inspecting the machines instead of the results

This goofy plan is fraught with problems - not the least of which is that unless you can catch somebody in the act in real time, it’s difficult to measure the veracity of the system. When it comes to securing the systems, it’s not only difficult, it’s actually impossible with any degree of sustained surety. So ...

What if this is the wrong approach?

Blackbox Testing

There’s another way to look at this. It’s much simpler and it makes a lot more sense.

You might even save a ton of money!

EIP advocates for taking a “blackbox” testing approach. EIP sees the election system that produces the results as a black box in the sense that we don’t know what’s inside of it, and we don’t really care - because it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the result.

Rather than diving into the hardware, bytes flying through the air and the spaghetti code that glues these systems together, we concentrate on the input and the output. In any engineering or manufacturing context, that’s what software and hardware testers do before any product or engineering component goes out the door. They present varying input, and they observe the output, comparing the actual results to the expected outcome. If they match, then we are good to go. If they don’t, then we have a problem.

This logical, truly scientific approach is at the heart of EIP. If you follow the protocol, you will get the expected results. You actually can’t get any other results.

We can turn the black box into a clear box

Instead of dissecting the internals of the box, we can see right through it! So rather than wasting everyone’s time and money, fighting about machines and trying to chase a ghost, let’s step back a bit and look at the results by simply comparing them.

Hold on a minute there, sport

That all sounds great, but the problem is that the systems as they sit today do not provide this information. In order for a voter to be able to validate those results, they need two things. They need:

  1. The ability of the voter to verify that their vote was accurately cast
  2. The ability of the voter to verify that their vote was accurately counted

All of this is enabled by ballot marking - placing a VTN on the ballot itself. So now the voter can look up their vote by their VTN and verify that it was cast correctly, and they can take the entire list of all the votes and count them by themselves if they want to.

If, and only if a VTN is placed on the ballot and that data is made publicly available before all the votes are finalized, then machines don’t matter. Since EIP requires this capability of all machines, which machine is used to accomplish this simple task is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter because all the machines are doing the same thing. We’ve essentially turned the machine into nothing but a simple calculator. Remember, machines only do what you tell them to do. Since neither legislation nor any internal process specifications ever required machines to operate in this manner in the first place, that’s where all the problems began. The good news is the solution is simple and straightforward.

It’s the Results, Stupid!

On this website, there’s discussion about comparing your vote to a puchase, a bank transaction. Go read that if you’re curious.

When you vote, the immediate result is a completed ballot. That is your receipt. When EIP election results are presented, you can actually go look up your receipt and see if that matches your expected outcome. Nothing could be simpler. Nothing makes more sense.

So let’s do that instead.

  • "It’s the Results, Stupid!" is a pun taken from a phrase coined by James Carville in 1992, when he was advising Bill Clinton in his successful run for the White House where he said, “It’s the economy stupid”

  • The term "clear box" was coined by Colorado State Representative Ken DeGraaf, in reference to historical voting boxes and the fact that EIP is radically transparent

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