By Dady Chery
Democracy is a solved problem for the world’s elites. They routinely and confidently call for elections that, for the most part, leave voters angry, disappointed, or confused. Let’s face it: elections are routinely rigged. In the more egregious cases, ballots are marked in advance, ballot boxes disappear, polling stations open late or close early, voting machines malfunction, the ink to mark the voters fails to work or vanishes altogether, and much besides. Unpopular measures pass and unpopular candidates are elected. As a result, much of the world is on course toward a corporatist, racist, sexist, intolerant, and xenophobic right, although, by all sensible measures, this path goes against the trajectory desired by the vast majority of people.
Clearly, for any election to be worth the exercise, one needs to be able to choose from dissimilar candidates and clearly elaborated sides of referendums or propositions. The approaches toward obtaining such real candidates and referendums are beyond the scope of this essay. Here we will limit ourselves to a discussion of a simple way to guarantee that each vote is correctly and verifiably counted.
One vote, one receipt
Why is the verification of votes, which has major ramifications, placidly outsourced, although every day people quite casually enter into countless transactions that are cheat proof? If a store-bought item is defective, we can and do return it. If deposited funds fail to appear in our bank accounts and our bills go unpaid, we can and do raise hell. This is because we can personally verify our own transactions and challenge the shops, banks and utility companies to turn over every stone until any mistake is found and corrected.
Three elements enable such a challenge:
- An identified place
- A unique transaction identification (ID) number
- A time stamp
The same features could easily be incorporated into a vote as follows. The identified place would be a precinct. The transaction ID could be posted in an online registry of votes, where people could verify that their votes were exactly as they are registered. The duration of the voting period could be several weeks, and this could be associated with a transparent as well as continuous tabulation achieved by making the registry of votes, with the transaction numbers, accessible online to the public.
At the conclusion of an election, precincts would be required to publish data such as the numbers of individuals who registered to vote and the numbers of those who voted, all of which would be verifiable from the numbers of transactions, based on old-fashioned signatures.
Thus under this system, the voters themselves would become election monitors who can verify, not only their own votes, but also all others. Irregularities, such as large graveyard votes in some precincts, would not depend on the competence and honesty of election monitors but, rather, on the sharp eyes of observers everywhere.
Imagine what chaos would ensue if all of a country’s drivers were forced to register their vehicles, in person, on a single day! The unnecessary expense and complexity of presidential and legislative elections, together with all the chicanery, are due principally to all the citizens of a country or state being expected to vote within a short window of time: usually one day. Under such circumstances, people who are unjustly turned away by methods such as voter intimidation or voter caging lack the time in which to challenge the process and prove their legitimacy.
Instead, there could be designated places where people go to register their votes whenever ready, over a period of weeks, with “election day” being merely the deadline for voting. If so, then the process should become as smooth and trivial as the renewal of a car registration today. Voters would have sufficient time to respond to any challenge and consequently would feel empowered to ensure that their vote is counted.
Election monitors are legitimizers
The interests of political parties or election monitors are often not the same as those of the voters. Notably, there is a great deal of money to be made in monitoring elections. Consider, for example, the 2010-11 Haitian elections that brought Michel Martelly to the presidency. These elections were preceded by the exclusion of the Fanmi Lavalas Party, which commanded about 80 percent of the votes, and this, in turn, led to a boycott by the great majority of voters. Rather than call for an annulment, however, the Organization of American States (OAS) and Caricom, which had accepted $5.3 million to monitor the process, lent legitimacy to the fraudulent elections by declaring a winner despite the representation of only about 20 percent of the electorate.
In the United States, where it would be scandalous for an independent foreign organization like the OAS to monitor elections, because these are presumed to be “clean,” voters were probably defrauded in at least two recent presidential elections. In 2000, thousands of defrauded black Florida voters, who were excluded from the election because, among other things, their names had been deliberately found to be similar to the names of disenfranchised felons, complained to their congressional representatives that the Florida vote for president should not be certified. The support of a single U.S. Senator would have sufficed to prevent certification of the obviously fraudulent election, but not one Senator from either party, not even the candidate Albert Gore who had been personally defrauded, would support the challenge to the election. One is left to conclude that the appearance of legitimacy mattered more to him than his ascendance to the presidency.
In the next U.S. presidential elections, four years later, a suspiciously large number of unused ballots appeared in the state of Ohio. For example, in Cuyahoga County 1,135,265 ballots were supplied for 1,007,187 registered voters, despite voter turnouts being typically much lower (around 50 percent) than the number of registered voters. The Green Party tried to challenge the election, but the defrauded Democratic presidential candidate (this time John Kerry) balked. The ballots were quickly destroyed in yet another decision by Democrats and Republicans alike to give the appearance of legitimacy.
The only one who may be absolutely trusted to defend a voter’s right is the voter. Demand nothing. A demand assumes good faith from those in power. The reason why the world’s elites so often call for elections today without any trepidation is because, to them, democracy has been licked. One condition that will help to end this state of affairs is the verifiability of votes.
Source: Haiti Chery | Featured image source: bustathief.com
Copyright © 2012-2014 by Dady Chery. All Rights Reserved. Dady Chery is a journalist, playwright, essayist and poet, who writes in English, French and her native Creole. She is the Editor of Haiti Chery.
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