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Affluent Investor | May 24, 2017

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How to Have (Almost) Fool-Proof Ballot Security

american voting booth PUBLIC DOMAIN

Donald Trump just made voter fraud a bigger issue than any time since Al Gore threw the country into turmoil over the 2000 election.

Trump said he’d “wait and see” whether he accepted the outcome without a challenge. Instantly, the Democrat-NeverTrump Axis kicked into outrage mode at this. Yet the lot of them should frankly be ashamed. From 16 years of charges that George W. Bush’s election was fraudulent (it wasn’t), to Al Franken, Dino Rossi, Sharron Angle, Woody Jenkins and about a thousand other recent contested elections — with charges from both sides, from exactly these same people — the idea that any candidate should ever pre-concede an outcome is ridiculous.

In fact, in almost half the states, if the election is close enough, a recount is mandatory. But Trump is supposed to just sign-off in advance or he’s “threatening democracy”? Yeah. Sure.

And Trump certainly has reason for concern, as do we all. Donna Brazile’s meltdown on Fox Wednesday night over proof she helped rig a Presidential debate (and remember: Brazile is only DNC Chair because her predecessor got caught stealing the Democrat nomination from Bernie Sanders) tells us everything we need to know. Wikileaks and Project Veritas just caught Dems describing how they’ve rigged elections going back 50 years, and even paid operatives to incite violence at Trump rallies. A Republican headquarters was actually firebombed this week. The Democrats are going way beyond just cheating this year.

Which might explain why they suddenly want all of us to take on faith that all our elections are pure. It’s now “un-American” to believe otherwise, something they also tell us when they say we’re racists for wanting to require voters to present a valid photo ID, but not when they want to challenge every close election I can remember, or when they routinely accuse Republicans.

But my purpose here is not to cast blame. My purpose is to tell you how to have an (almost) tamper-proof election. It isn’t that hard.

As John Fund once wrote in his classic Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy, our election system frequently better resembles “an emerging Third World country rather than the world’s leading democracy.” Politico recently ran an exposé in which a group of tech experts demonstrated how easy it is to hack supposedly unhackable voting machines. The title: “How to Hack an Election in Seven Minutes“.

Maybe you’re the sort who doesn’t believe “anyone would do that.” So aside from my advice to get out more, I’ll offer this thought from Dilbert author (and atheist) Scott Adams: “Whenever humans have motive, opportunity, a high upside gain, and low odds of detection, cheating happens 100% of the time.” Speaking as a Christian, who therefore believes everyone is a sinner, I completely agree. The only question is whether the cheating is of sufficient magnitude to affect the outcome.

It doesn’t matter which side you’re on (assuming you’re honest): we all have an interest in stopping that. Especially since we don’t trust each other as much as we once did.

Now I’m a tech guy, so at this point, I always have a lot of friends suggest technological solutions. Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin. is the current favorite for “absolutely unhackable solution to everything.” But of course, nothing is unhackable, and there’s always a new way to go about it (as today’s internet outages conveniently illustrate).

The Obama Administration claims the Russians want to hack our election this year, which might be true, and that the way to solve for this is to centralize all elections in one database run by the Department of Homeland Security, which might be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Aside from the trust issues this would produce absolutely every cycle, a massive centralized system would be infinitely easier to hack, by enemies both foreign and domestic.

Obama’s idea, though, illustrates what we need. Even if the technology were perfect (which will never, ever be true), public trust is equally important in a free society. Normal people do not understand blockchain, and the only possible response to that is “trust us.” But this is a case in which “trusting us” is itself the problem.

As I’ve been writing for decades, to fulfill the needs of both security and public confidence, you need a system that anyone can understand, anyone can operate, and in which 100% of the ways to cheat are well known and can be guarded against.

I repeat, the important thing is that anyone be able to do this, because “anyone” is exactly who you get. Elections are not run by experts. They’re run by lots of elderly volunteers, Black Panthers and lazy bureaucrats. Countless thousands of them in fact, all with minimal training and attention spans. (Oh, and a handful of election lawyers, scattered far too widely and unpredictably.)

That may sound like something we should reform. It isn’t. This is a republic. Everyone should be involved, and if everyone has an equal opportunity to involve themselves in the mechanics of elections — from driving people to the polls to handing out the “I Voted” stickers to providing ballot security and observing the count — those who aren’t personally involved can trust the outcome because their neighbor wasinvolved (and maybe they will be next time).

Indeed, the best way to restore public trust in the process might just be to have a process in which all those angry, distrustful people (like me) had a chance to involve themselves very directly, so that they personally are involved in ensuring the process’s integrity. Do that a few times and a lot of the problem will recede: voters will trust more, and fraudsters will be deterred.

I realize this all assumes that at some level there’s a cop you can call (maybe the local ones, maybe someone above the local ones, ideally some of both), a judge who’ll grant an injunction, party attorneys who’ll fight. All that has to exist or you’re Venezuela. But this is America, so I am assuming that infrastructure exists nearly everywhere, nearly all the time.

So what you need is something that’s foolproof: not perfect, but easily monitored by anyone who wants to. And that means that the ideal system centers upon…wait for it…paper ballots.

Why paper ballots? Because we know 100% of the ways you can cheat with paper ballots, those methods are not hard to understand, and volunteers can monitor for them quite successfully with zero technology (after all, we’ve been holding elections with paper ballots since before the Revolution). Oh, and also, because every voting machine ever devised so far can be hacked, in case you missed that point earlier.

Those paper ballots need to be hand-counted, for exactly the same reason, by people from both sides and with lots of people from both sides looking on. Doing this takes more time than having a machine do it for you, which is why lazy bureaucrats hate it. Media types also hate it, because they want their story and they want it right now. But hand-counting is the safest, most confidence-assuring way — no hanging chads, no hacking the software, lots of people paying attention to the sausage-making — and that’s more important than whether a bureaucrat gets home by 11pm a night or two each year.

It’s also vital that the voters have registered at least a month before the election. If they don’t, there’s simply no time for anyone to check whether the person registering is who she says she is. Same-day registration is an invitation for widespread fraud.

Elections need to take place as entirely as possible on one day. Absentee ballots are a necessary evil, but early voting is not. The opportunity to cast more than one ballot is reduced dramatically if voting is confined to one day, especially since doing so allows you to use indelible ink on all voters’ thumbs, as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan. This proved highly effective, in societies with no history of honest elections (or in some cases any elections), and virtually eliminated repeat voting. The inked thumbs also proved to be a badge of honor and a point of pride.

Not that this affects ballot security, but it’s worth noting that voting as much as possible on a single day also captures a better picture of the electorate’s wishes. We currently have early voting as much as two months before the election in some places, and as the past few weeks have shown (and the next few will as well), those votes may well not reflect the opinions of those who cast them by Nov. 8th. Single day voting is important for security, but also to capture the best possible snapshot of the will of the people, after the candidates have all had the exact same time to make their best case.

Finally, it should be obvious, but every voter should be required to present a valid government-issued photo ID. The assertion that this is somehow racist is both obnoxious and ludicrous, first because to the best of my knowledge every state will now issue a photo ID for free to anyone too poor to pay for one — and we can easily make it the law anywhere it’s not — and second because no one is more disenfranchised by voter fraud than honest minorities. The implicit argument of the Democrat Party is that they will “enhance” minority voting strength by cheating, but this assumes that all minorities want to vote for them. And the smallest minority, the one most deserving of protection, is always the individual.

In any case, if it’s not racist to require a valid photo ID to buy cough syrup, or to board an airplane, or to buy alcohol or cigarettes, or to open a bank account, or to rent a car, or to get married, or to rent a hotel room, or to apply for Food Stamps, or to apply for Medicaid, or to apply for Social Security, or to apply for unemployment, then how on God’s green Earth is it racist to require a valid photo ID to vote?

The mind just boggles (or doesn’t, depending on whether you believe this argument is really just a cover for fraud. Which it is).

So to recap, to accomplish the twin purposes of secure elections and voter confidence in the results, our (almost) fool-proof system will have:

1. Paper ballots

2. That are hand counted

3. Voter registration at least a month early

4. One election day

5. Indelibly inked-thumbs

6. And of course, photo IDs

This is not complicated. We’ve done this in war zones, both here and abroad, both centuries ago and in modern times. Everyone can understand it, everyone can participate in it. It produces a highly trustworthy result nearly all the time. And it encourages civic responsibility, because everyone is responsible for the security of every election, as opposed to just trusting some “expert” or some software package somewhere.

This is the system we need.

Originally published on Rod D. Martin’s website.

Rod D. Martin, founder and CEO of The Martin Organization, is a technology entrepreneur, futurist, hedge fund manager, and professor. Fox Business News calls him a “tech guru”, Britain’s Guardian labeled him a “philosopher-capitalist”, and Gawker describes him as a “brilliant nonconformist.” He was a senior member of PayPal’s pre-IPO startup team and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Council for National Policy.

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