What “Our Democracy” Ought to Look Like When Voting: Reader Reactions and Updates


By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Readers had many glorious feedback and recommendations on this put up’s companion piece of two weeks in the past on election eve (“What ‘Our Democracy’ Ought to Look Like When Voting: A Easy Plan“). So I assumed I’d revise the “easy plan” to include some reader recommendations, and likewise clarify why I rejected others.

How we vote is turning into an more and more inflammatory subject, sadly ignited in our day — amongst Republicans — by The Former Man’s “Cease the Steal” marketing campaign. (Whereas it might be silly to disclaim the election theft in the USA has occurred in dwelling reminiscence, I’m not persuaded that election 2020 was stolen, and don’t @ me (and never on RussiaGate, both)). Nevertheless, it might silly to disclaim that our balloting system, no matter particular person circumstances or desired outcomes, lacks legitimacy (“Why I Am Anxious Concerning the Legitimacy of the 2020 Election Balloting Course of,” January 2020). Republicans, being Republicans and subsequently extra critical or at the very least aggressive about their politics than Democrats, are working arduous each to rejigger current electoral techniques to their benefit and to treatment actual issues. Into the latter class falls Republican advocacy of paper ballots, the worldwide “gold customary.” I might hate for Democrats to have the ability to power “hand marked paper ballots, hand counted in public” into the “election denial” body, and so I’m writing these posts in an try to forestall that. I additionally need to put voting as an act of civic engagement, and never a mirrored image of partisan fealty or “workforce spirit.”

I’ll first current a recap of the postulates, rules, and plan from the sooner put up. Then I’ll current additions, rejections, and a few “chopping room flooring” materials I made a decision to not add to the plan (however readers might imagine in another way). Readers are, after all, free to make extra recommendations!

Recap: The Easy Plan

From election eve:

Postulates: Of elections and election expertise, I postulate:

(I). Digital = hackable;

(II). The monetary stakes for any election are huge;

(III). Phishing, in essence, is the proposition that if fraud can occur, it is going to have already got occurred. (Phishing is ubiquitous, particularly in a financialized economic system. See Shiller and Akerlof on this level.)


(A). Each citizen ought to have an equal probability to vote.

(B). Each voter ought to have the flexibility to vote from identical reality set.

(C). Each voter’s poll ought to be marked and counted utilizing the identical course of.


Merchandise (1) is modified. Different objects are added. See beneath below Additions.

(1). Declare election day (this yr, November 8, tomorrow) a nationwide vacation (i.e., paid). No early voting. No drop containers. Mail-in just for these bodily unable to journey to the precinct; nursing properties, the navy, abroad voters, and many others.

(2). Mandate that the default voting system for all precincts have to be hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public (modulo accomodations in level (3) beneath.

(3). Accomodations (disabilities; language; transport) ought to be Federally mandated and funded (by precept (D)) on the precinct degree.

(4) Election sources ought to be evenly distributed throughout precincts, and remediation funded (by precept (D)) if want be.

(5) Counting, and ballot-handing typically, shouldn’t be carried out by get together members[4].

(6) Help for voter IDs, the place mandated, ought to be Federally mandated and funded (by precept (D)).


Three-day weekend. alert reader aj wrote:

Election Day being a vacation wouldn’t imply a lot for lots of people, particularly if it’s nonetheless on a Tuesday. Individuals within the service trade work day by day, holidays or not. We work on Thanksgiving and Christmas, what makes you suppose I wouldn’t should work on election day. I feel a greater resolution to fulfill each rules A and B can be to have voting over a couple of days or possibly as much as 7, a few of which ought to span the weekend.

After dialogue, we converged on a three-day weekend. (For my part, seven days is lengthy sufficient to concoct a “November Shock,” gin up a oppo assault or a Twitter dogpile, and many others. This could be a lot more durable over a weekend.) Therefore:

(1). All voting takes place over the primary three-day weekend in November. The Monday is a nationwide vacation (i.e., paid). No early voting. No drop containers. Mail-in just for these bodily unable to journey to the precinct; nursing properties, the navy, abroad voters, and many others.

None Of The Above. Alert reader C.O. wrote:

I feel there ought to be a formally printed “not one of the above” possibility required on the poll as a substitute so that every voter can clearly present they haven’t spoiled their poll accidentally or as a result of they’re so uncaring or uninformed they wrote in one thing silly. Then a wise objective can be to try to do an honest sufficient job to scale back the variety of votes for “not one of the above,” and it may then be plausibly argued that one thing near no vote being wasted is going on.

An added aspect to the plan:

(7) Every set of candidate decisions on the poll should allow “Not one of the Above” (NOTA). NOTA votes shall be tabulated, however shall not have an effect on the result.

Airborne an infection mitigations. Alert reader Giuseppe wrote:

[Y]ou would require my spouse and me to face in keeping with strangers who refuse to put on masks in the course of a triple viral pandemic to be able to train our proper to vote.

An added aspect to the plan:

(8) Voting precincts shall mitigate towards airborne tranmission of illness by minimizing wait occasions, putting in air flow in response to ASHRAE requirements, and offering masks.

It is likely to be that, given the givens “going ahead” I ought to add a further Precept:

(D). No princinct ought to give rise to superspreading occasions.

Normal exit polling. Alert reader mrsyk wrote:

I wish to add standardized exit polling as a consideration.

An added aspect to the plan:

(9). Exit polling shall be performed in response to a plan devised, carried out, and revealed by the USA Census, inside a month of the Monday of election day weekend.


Photograph IDs. Alert reader KD wrote:

There ought to undoubtedly be a nationwide photographic ID. Utilizing drivers licenses is loopy, not everybody has a license, not everybody can get a license and never everybody can get a “nondriver ID.” Its not like homeland safety doesn’t have your info in any case.

There’s no requirement for this; voter fraud is minimal. As well as, so far as nationwide photographic IDs go, I’m a small-c conservative. I hate RealID, and I shudder to suppose what the organs of state safety will do with it.

Use get together members to rely the votes. Alert reader Rasmus wrote:

Utilizing get together members to rely the votes not solely solves the sensible drawback of discovering volunteers who care sufficient about politics to volunteer a day as an official, it additionally prevents fraud and builds belief within the end result. When officers are get together members you understand their bias and might take it under consideration, so ballots are all the time dealt with bo officers from totally different events, thereby making fraud more durable as you might be all the time being watched by your opponent. Having the events themselves participate within the rely additionally helps them belief the outcomes as that they had their very own individuals at each polling station who would have advised them is one thing shady was happening. Officers are paid an affordable remuneration for his or her hassle and municipal authorities liable for organising polling stations will ensure they get one thing good to eat and drink as properly.

See merchandise (4); lack of volunteers is a useful resource subject, to be remediated by cash. This isn’t a hill I need to die on, however I feel we need to scale back, not enhance, the facility of events within the electoral system.

Bar-coded particular person ballots. Alert reader Tom Pfotzer wrote:

I need a solution to take my receipt, go to some public facility (workplace or web site), plug in my poll quantity, and be capable to confirm that my votes have been counted.

Samuel Connor chimed in:

I feel this might work with out violating Lambert’s rules. Your paper poll would have a singular ID (UID) on it and you possibly can maintain a file of this UID for the type of after-the-fact checking that you just point out. I feel that the hand-counting of the paper ballots may embrace the creation of a file of all of the UIDs of ballots solid for every candidate (this file must be digital to be able to subsequently be searchable with lower than nice effort, however offered that the precise vote rely was by hand, I don’t suppose the existence of this digital supplementary information would compromise the rely). The whole variety of UIDs of ballots solid for a candidate would equal the hand rely of votes for that candidate.

This could enable voters to after-the-fact confirm that their votes have been credited to the supposed candidates.

It might, nevertheless, compromise the anonymity of 1’s vote if one’s UID turned identified to another person.

Jason added:

That’s the best way Singapore’s voting is finished. Every poll has a singular ID quantity. Ballots are saved for six months earlier than being incinerated within the presence of ruling and opposition get together members.

I don’t see a requirement; I feel that the checks of a public rely are enough to be sure that the rely is appropriate (“ambition have to be made to counteract ambition”). Let’s not fetishize digital engineering over social engineering. Conor factors out that the rely may embrace recording the UID, however that’s both digital or time-consuming. Additional, I feel the entire notion of “receipts” — launched by the Poll Marking Gadget individuals, and implying that there’s a second authority superior to the poll — is flawed. The hand-marked poll is the poll. In precept, the poll is secret. If there’s a receipt for the poll, it’s now not secret.

Additional Subjects for Dialogue

Mail-in ballots introduce three types of complexity that ought to not exist: Poll curing, mail monitoring, and bizarre validation rituals to encourage public confidence:

Poll curing. This from Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi crossed my Twitter feed:

NPR has an explainer on poll curing:

Throughout huge U.S. elections, lots of of hundreds of mail ballots are usually thrown out and left uncounted. In 2020, as an example, greater than 560,000 ballots have been rejected (that’s almost 1% of the overall).

Specialists say poll rejections are largely the results of comparatively minor voter errors, typically related to safety measures which might be designed to confirm a voter’s id.

That’s why about half of states have a course of in place to assist voters repair their mail ballots in the event that they do make a mistake. It’s referred to as poll curing.

As a result of [genuflects] Federalism, poll curing techniques fluctuate within the states that enable it:

States fluctuate broadly on what disqualifying points can and can’t be cured, and native election officers typically resolve themselves on find out how to implement curing necessities with minimal state steerage.

In some states, voters can treatment ballots which have both a mismatching or lacking signature; in others, voters can solely repair ballots with a mismatching—however not lacking—signature. In choose states that require witness signatures on absentee ballots, voters can treatment misplaced or lacking witness signatures along with their very own. Further disqualifying points that voters can treatment in some areas embrace lacking Social Safety numbers, unsealed envelopes that meet sure necessities, and issues with poll statements.

(Right here is an inventory of poll curing states with their insurance policies.) For sure, all it is a gross violation of Precept A. The Council of State Governments concludes:

Whereas poll curing is a crucial step in ensuring every vote is counted, it doesn’t present a whole resolution to poll rejection. The dearth of standardization and different disqualifying errors can’t be mounted by current poll curing procedures. Along with streamlining and easing the poll curing course of, these points and others could possibly be additional examined to enhance the procedures for counting mail-in ballots.

Or, versus additional examination, we may remedy the issue by eliminating mail-in ballots so far as practicable below rule (1). Essentially the most dependable working elements are those that aren’t there.

Mail monitoring. From Authorities Govt:

The Vote by Mail Monitoring Act (H.R. 1307) would require any poll despatched to voters in a federal election to have a barcode on the envelope that permits the U.S. Postal Service to trace every poll. It might enable USPS to create envelope design requirements with which municipal election workplaces should comply.

In latest elections, USPS has “strongly really helpful” that state and native governments use its barcodes and the official election brand on ballots, however there was no requirement to take action. Postal administration has ramped up its efforts to coordinate with election workplaces, establishing groups to deal with election efforts yr spherical and dealing with native officers to determine relationships and set expectations. The Postal Service’s inspector normal has beforehand really helpful the company create monitoring necessities for election mail.

Higher poll monitoring would give voters higher peace of thoughts, lawmakers stated, as they might decide the place within the mail stream their votes have been at any second. It might additionally ease the method for USPS, which each election cycle implements “extraordinary measures” to make sure each poll is delivered to election workplaces by their deadlines. With higher visibility into the place ballots are, postal staff would have a neater time figuring out items of mail to tug out of the conventional system to prioritize for supply.

I agree that there ought to be higher monitoring, however there also needs to be a lot much less monitoring to do. (It’s additionally odd that we will have “envelope design requirements,” however not “poll design requirements.” Absolutely a case of placing the cart earlier than the horse?

Bizarre rituals. From the Atlanta Journal-Structure:

With the roll of 20 colourful cube within the Georgia Capitol, election officers launched an audit of a random pattern of ballots Wednesday that will probably be reviewed by hand throughout the state this week.

The audit will verify whether or not machine counts of ballots match hand tallies, displaying whether or not the result was correct..

Gabriel Sterling, chief working officer for the secretary of state’s workplace, stated he hopes the poll evaluate will show to voters that they will belief the outcomes of elections.

Why not simply do it proper to start with, and hand-count the ballots?

In every case, we see odd epicycle-like performance added to and already creaky system save the phenomenon of poll marking units and early voting. “They add performance by deleting code” is one definition I’ve seen of a very good programmer. Let’s apply it!

Lastly, there’s the query of advanced paper ballots. Alert reader marym wrote:

My poll this yr had 97 line objects. I’ve most likely stated earlier than, I personally lack the creativeness to ascertain a handbook course of, even when this massive quantity have been decreased by splitting voting into a couple of separate elections. It’s not an argument towards making an attempt, I’d simply have an interest to see some concepts.

And Laura in So Cal wrote:

My poll contained 48 totally different races or objects

2 Federal races (senate & home)
10 state races
1 native water company
1 county sheriff
1 metropolis council (a number of votes)
2 faculty districts
22 judicial workplaces at numerous ranges
7 state poll initiatives
2 county poll measures

The Electoral Knowlege Community has a tremendous and exhaustive part on Voting Operations, with sections on Poll Paper Design, and Printing of Ballots. I regarded there so I may get some thought of the dimensions of this potential drawback (as a result of in my expertise it doesn’t exist). Nowhere is there any suggestion of design or printing points involving paper ballots that merely have too many objects. And if a poll could be printed, it may be counted. I’ll actually maintain my eyes open for future proof, however for now, I don’t see a problem.[1]


There are different subjects I’d get to at a later date: Banning political polling inside a set interval earlier than the vote, and banning all types of political promoting besides in print. (This could be an infinite subsidy to native newspapers. I do know that.)

I need to go away you with the sense that voting is a civic obligation, and ought to be handled — above all, funded — as such. Thanks, NC readers, on your many glorious recommendations. Additionally, if there are any legal professionals, jailhouse or in any other case, who need to tighten up the wording of the plan, be at liberty to chime in!


[1] If ballots have gotten to the purpose the place they have to be printed as booklets, I recommend that the issue shouldn’t be ballots, however election officers (or presumably legislatures). Schedule one other election; we shouldn’t be asking voters to vote on a booklet of decisions in any case. I’m all for civic obligation, however I’m additionally not for arbitary burdens.

APPENDIX Sortition

Alternatively, as alert reader Kouros suggests, we may shift to a system of sortition. From the Boston Evaluation, ” to a system of sortition. From the Boston Evaluation, “The Case for Abolishing Elections“:

In a ballot performed in January 2020, 65 p.c of respondents stated that on a regular basis individuals chosen by lottery—who meet some fundamental necessities and are keen and in a position to serve—would carry out higher or a lot better in comparison with elected politicians. In March final yr a Pew survey discovered {that a} staggering 79 p.c consider it’s very or considerably necessary for the federal government to create assemblies the place on a regular basis residents from all walks of life can debate points and make suggestions about nationwide legal guidelines. “My decade of expertise serving within the state legislature convinces me that this well-liked evaluation is appropriate,” Bouricius stated.

The concept—technically referred to as “sortition”—has been spreading. Maybe its most distinguished educational advocate is Yale political theorist Hélène Landemore. Her 2020 e-book Open Democracy: Reinventing Common Rule for the Twenty-First Century explores the restrictions of each direct democracy and electoral-representative democracy, advocating as a substitute for presidency by giant, randomly chosen “mini-publics.” As she put it in dialog with Ezra Klein on the New York Occasions final yr, “I feel we’re realizing the boundaries of simply with the ability to select rulers, versus truly with the ability to select outcomes.”

Hmm. Maybe sortition for some workplaces?

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