To ensure electoral integrity, a video record should be created and preserved

( – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)

We must do all we can to insure that our political system merits trust.  There is no more essential part of our system than the electoral process, the means by which our will as a free people is determined.

As demonstrated – again – during the recent recount in the Sixth Worcester District, there are many public servants who merit that trust.  The level of professionalism evidenced by many throughout that process is a credit to the individual integrity of those involved; the citizens in the communities they serve should be proud of the work done on their behalf.

There is also room for improvement.  The ongoing litigation concerning that recount addresses two aspects of the process that require correction.  The first concerns the integrity of the ballots cast.  After being counted on the night of the election, those ballots were kept in sealed ballot boxes, with each box being secured that night with two numbered seals.  At the time of the recount, both seals on one such box were found to be compromised – one was opened, the other was missing.

Critically, at the time of that recount, the number of votes in that compromised ballot box differed from the count on election night.  The present litigation involves the contention that such additional votes should be counted and, if they result in a numerical tie, could result in a special election.  A special election in that context would hardly inspire confidence in the process.  

Secondly, one side in the current litigation has presented an allegation that a prospective voter was improperly turned away because of concerns about whether such person was properly qualified to vote.  The ordinary result where such concerns are presented is that the putative voter would cast a “provisional ballot,” the propriety of which would be considered later.  Purportedly, that did not happen, but rather the individual was simply turned away.

Our trust in the electoral process would not be enhanced should credit now be given to that claim, and the putative voter’s vote counted.

The circumstances of this matter illustrate the need for improvement.  Specifically, both such concerns could be addressed – and remedied – should all critical public proceedings during our elections be videotaped.

Let us provide for the creation of a video record of the all such events  – from the time the voting machines are set up, to the time each individual presents to vote, to the time the sealed ballot boxes are placed into each municipality’s vault.  If there were a video record of all material, publicly-visible events on Election Day in the Sixth Worcester District, then the anomalies that are the subject of the current litigation could easily be resolved.

In particular, should, in future, there be a video record of a ballot box with intact seals being locked in a municipality’s vault on election night – and should later there be a video record of the vault being opened with the seals then being found compromised, then any “additional” votes discovered in such a compromised ballot box could readily be disregarded.

Similarly, should, in future, a candidate produce an individual who presents a dubious claim that he was turned away from voting – with, for some unidentified reason, no provisional ballot being cast, such a claim could be effectively refuted (or, theoretically, substantiated) by a video record.  Given the increased strength of the evidentiary record, politicians in future would be less likely to bring unfounded claims in such regard.  

In either circumstance, a video record would simultaneously affirm what actually happened on Election Day and forestall efforts to undo the choice made by the voters.  While the creation of a video record would involve some costs, those costs would be mitigated by the savings associated with the likely long-term decrease in the expenses municipalities now incur relative to recounts and associated litigation.    

There would be no appreciable effect of creating a video record of the electoral process on legitimate voting.  We may anticipate that those who vote legitimately would be no more deterred by the creation of a video record than they are in the dozens of other contexts in which they are commonly videotaped.  In essence, it would seem doubtful that anyone is deterred from shopping at a convenience store or visiting a bank because of the likelihood of being videotaped – we may expect that the same would apply to being those who properly seek to vote.

Of course, any who present to vote illegitimately could well be deterred.  And that would be ok.  Such a result, of course, would serve to make the process more trustworthy.

Let us improve our system.  Let us provide for the creation of a video record of all significant, publicly-visible, election-related events.  Let us do all we can to insure that our political system merits trust.

Sincerely,

Jim McKenna

About mckenna1961

  • This is an interesting and creative idea.

    One issue that I see is that in my City you would need 12 cameras to cover all the wards. That’s if you did just one camera at each Ward, where two covering check in and checkout might actually be better, although that would result in the need for 24.  

    Other towns and larger cities could need significantly more.  Even if a community would want to do this (and I see MANY benefits for the town/city to do this for their own protection), the startup investment in video equipment, along with a staff of people who would set them us, make sure they are working and take them down at night could be quite costly.

    Now some might say that the Warden or the poll workers could do it. Although you would now be asking the same people whom you have problems with and are not even doing the voter check in correctly to set up a camera to view their work.   Not a good idea. Sounds like asking the fox to count the chickens!

    Again ..a great idea ..but I believe it will come down to money $$.  If a town/city doesn’t have the money to update the voter rolls and offer more training, not sure where they will get the money for the cameras and staff to run them.  

  • Telephones work well, too.

    ANY GOP observer should routinely be equipped with one or the other.

  • A number of cities and towns refused to implement the security cameras provided by Homeland Security that were going to be used to watch major streets and evacuation routes.  Even though these cameras prooved helpful in apprehending criminals such as the case with the abduction in Brookline (Coolidge Corner I think) that was quickly brought to a resolution by footage from one of these cameras, they still have refused such cameras on the grounds that they infringe on people’s liberties.  How would these communities react to having everything that is done in an election captured on camera for future review?

  • about mandatory ID checks?

  • edfactor

    It is crazy that almost the entire country votes with technology from decades ago, which creates many potential problems. Republicans should push for new technologies that will give the public greater confidence in our elections.

    There are many people working on the problems in our voting systems. (I know a few of them.) Selection and implementation of voting technology is vastly harder than it would appear to outsiders. There are numerous potential situations that can arise from error or bad behavior that the average person would not anticipate. Also, every state and municipality has their own customizations to the process.

    Making videos of activity is, on its own, not going to get you very far. It’s like saying, “If we have cameras in a warehouse, nothing is going to get stolen from there anymore.” (If the people who work in the warehouse really want to steal something, they will find a way around them.)

    We need to create a computerized system where there are no recounts or doubts about the process. This is a very, very hard thing to do. However, a few people are up to that challenge.

    If you want to see a very cool project that shows where voting will go in the future, go to Helios Voting: http://heliosvoting.org/

    It is a way to have secure, transparent, verifiable online voting. The guy behind it is my friend Ben Adida, one of the best minds in computer science today, who has a PhD in cryptography from MIT, has advised secretaries of state about voting, and works on securing personal health records for the Harvard Medical School. He is getting more and more people to use his incredible tool, and I one day hope to cast a ballot using his technologies.

    (Ben is a great guy who is not yet 40, but, like virtually all brilliant computer scientists these days, is a Democrat. However, I’m the one Republican he likes, and I can arrange a conversation with him if someone wants to use Helios for any type of election.)