The one thing that should be obvious from 2020 is that privatizing election systems doesn’t work.
The voting machine industry is largely dominated by three companies, Dominion, obviously is one of them, but all of them have had their major issues, regardless of the social media trends, and they exist because of political favoritism. There’s a reason why voting machines are a niche industry dominated by a handful of companies that no one outside politics has heard of and why they hire political operatives and aides while producing subpar technology that is not up to standards.
I’m a fan of privatization, but elections are one area where privatization doesn’t make sense because of trust issues.
Trust is the most essential element in an election. To maintain that trust, the process, the systems, and the data have to be transparent and overseen by both sides. The one thing everyone ought to be able to agree on is that’s not the case here. Government doesn’t do things well, but the voting machine industry certainly isn’t.
The current system in which locals get voting machines from national and international contractors, who then hire their political operatives, is rife with corruption. And that’s no different than 90% of government business, but elections are one area where even the perception of corruption shatters trust in the entire system.
The entire process is already badly broken with worthless voting rolls, and the already non-existent verification rendered even more ridiculous with drop boxes and ballot harvesting, but adding questions about voting machines further destroys the credibility of any election. And yet any conventional overhaul of the system is all but impossible because it’s dysfunctional by design. Different elements of that dysfunction are part of the election strategies of both Democrats and Republicans.
But Democrats and Republicans both distrust the voting machine industry, just at alternate elections. The industry has become an election weak point and it can be a rallying point for more comprehensive reforms in which we let go of the old broken systems and move forward to something that is verifiable and transparent.
Our voting systems, even when they’re electronic, are still rooted in the 19th century. The debates over voting machines are rooted in 70s computer technology.
The essential elements of any legitimate voting system has to be…
1. Verification of all voters
2. Voter control over their votes
3. External ability to verify the previous two points while maintaining the confidentiality of the voters and their vote.
It’s not easy, yet we routinely deal with vast amounts of financial and medical data that offers some of the same challenges. The fundamental difference is that the United States is built around local control of elections. The voting machine industry is so controversial because it undermines that local control. And that is the fourth element that needs to be reconciled. It’s not impossible, but we haven’t even tried.