In a country with almost 320 million citizens, the secret ballot in elections almost ensures one simple fact--that voting fraud will exist, either from voters or the structure itself.
The secret ballot isn't a truly time honored institution in America -- only universally applied for a little over 100 years. In fact, Grover Cleveland was the first U.S. president elected exclusively by the secret ballot.
Could it be that the secret ballot itself is what truly needs a dose of transparency to ensure accurate and meaningful elections?
Most importantly, with the invention of voting machines we have to know that the votes are being counted correctly and without tampering.
On January 14 in Kansas, a pretrial conference and deadline for motions will take place in a voting trial brought forth from statistician and engineer Beth Clarkson, who claims that there are mathematical anomalies in the 2012 election results that demonstrate possible tampering of the voting machines.
Rather than taking utmost interest in the possibility, the state election offices have stalled, pointed fingers, and refused to comply with even the smallest reasonable demands.This is the state of the American vote--we have no idea what happens once our ballots are cast.
Ballot box stuffing is a time honored tradition in almost ever country with polling. Institutionalized fraud exists, yet we ignore the warning signs of potential modern problems.
One of the greatest things that voters should be confident of in a constitutional republic is that the votes, regardless of the results, are accurate.
There are dozens of pet voting reform plans out there, some party-line while others from independents -- from eliminating the electoral college to forcing multiple IDs to vote -- but all miss the most simple aspect of any voting reform: we must know for a fact that our votes are being counted.
Without this key aspect, all other plans are meaningless.
One novel approach, very viable in the age of computers, is to have ballots that are serial numbered, and anyone with that serial number can view the way the ballot was cast.
This would also give groups significant power in election verification -- say, for instance, a candidate's campaign called for all of the voters that supported them to allow them access to their serial numbers.
Many jurisdictions already have laws that trigger recounts when the vote is statistically close; it is not a huge stretch to think that laws should be enacted to trigger counting paper records when the vote is statistically questionable.
Everyone, from the political parties to the government, from the candidates to the voter should want to know that electronic counting is accurate --yet we never see even a demonstration of this accuracy.
The Kansas voting case will be interesting to see unfold, not just because of the possibility of fraud, but because it will be interesting to see just how much of a fight will be put up to keep citizens from seeing the records.
Because in the end, the power of the vote only matters if those counting them are honest.