Opinionated @ CFE

Election fraud? Focus on the right part of the problem

Nov
10

It seems like there are a number of conservatives who have an unhealthy fixation on the issue of vote fraud. This fixation usually results in making it a lot more difficult to register to vote with requirements to register far in advance and produce copious identification. This focus, however, is horribly misdirected.

The reality of vote fraud is that it is rare, often uncoordinated, and unlikely to change the outcome of most elections. In cases where an election is close enough to make a difference, additional scrutiny is placed upon the ballots to ensure that they were properly cast. Any attempt to game an election from the front end would be quickly discovered and result in huge penalties for people who usually have little to gain from it.

Election fraud, however, is a real specter. Time and time again, electronic voting machines are shown to be easily gamed and changed to result in substantially different outcomes. Because the results can be modified to show a significant victory for a given party with the involvement of very few players, it becomes less likely that it will draw attention and scrutiny. As Joseph Stalin, someone well-versed in manipulating elections, has said, “He who votes does nothing. He who counts the votes decides everything.”

Most of us want elections to be fair and square, so let’s focus on the parts that can actually be gamed.

Where I Stand 2010: County and Local Offices

Oct
15

Every year, I spend a considerable amount of time studying each candidate and, if needed, attempting to contact them to get answers to specific questions. I would strongly encourage each of you to do the same. Here are my picks for the county and local offices.

Salt Lake County Council At-Large B: I was thankfully able to eliminate one candidate in this race almost immediately. Warren T. Rogers spends his entire campaign website talking about federal issues, but not one lick of anything about local things like the townships, transportation, the Unified Police Department and it’s fee… nothing. That kind of gross ignorance cannot be allowed in local governance. It comes down to a race between a well-known (and somewhat combative) journalist, Holly Mullen, and a Republican Party insider, Richard Snelgrove. I e-mailed both candidates some questions and didn’t initially get a response. After a public upbraiding and second round of e-mails, I had received responses from both candidates within a couple of days.

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Endorsement: Jeremy Votaw for Salt Lake County Clerk

Jun
18

Four years ago, I was absolutely aghast that Sherrie Swenson would claim that there was nothing wrong with the Diebold voting machines in use by the county despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Her constant denials of any problems rather than taking ownership of the issue demonstrated a lack of real leadership and put me off from ever considering her for public office. It is especially disconcerting that Ms. Swenson is so cavalier about one of her most basic responsibilities, ensuring fair and honest elections.

These problems with our current County Clerk do not automatically guarantee an endorsement for her opponent. I’m perfectly happy to vote “none of the above” when it suits me. (I’m seriously considering it for the US Senate race.) Jeremy Votaw, a web designer, is currently running to replace Sherrie Swenson and I e-mailed him to find out a bit more about why he thinks he should be the new County Clerk.

I’m pleased to report that Mr. Votaw is very well-acquainted with the issues facing Diebold voting machines generally and electronic voting machines in particular, but is also realistic in accepting that the decision to purchase said machines can’t be undone due to the sunk cost. As a fellow technologist, I’m also confident that he can use technology to improve operations at the Clerk’s office; I was appalled that I could not find candidate information on their website, but instead had to e-mail to get it. It’s only slightly inconvenient, but why have a person do the job of a machine? I think that belies a need to better modernize the office, something that the current Clerk has had ample time to do.

Is this a perfect choice? No. The snarky exchanges between the two on Twitter over the age of their campaign photos, while hilarious, also made me wince a little at the lack of decorum. (But still, super funny, so I can let it slide.) Given how strongly I feel about Sherrie Swenson’s ignorance on electronic voting machines and the contrasting familiarity with them on the part of  her opponent, I fully endorse Jeremy Votaw to replace her this November.

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