How much ease in voting would you consider to be too much?

We’ve had many threads in the past few years to the effect of “These restrictions on voting go too far or are unnecessary” - so I wanted to explore it from the other angle instead.

At what point would you say the voting process is too easy or unchecked, and it’s a legit threat to electoral integrity?

I could supply some hypotheticals, but want the thread to go some distance first. How far would you be willing to go in terms of “ease of voting” and still be comfortable with the process?

It can’t be too easy. It can be too insecure. But it should be as easy as possible while maintaining some minimum of security. So that’s the question: what level of security is enough?

The ideal answer would, of course, be “secure enough that the outcomes remain the same.” This would mean that, the closer the election, the more secure it needs to be. Of course, we can’t know 100% ahead of time how close an election can be, but we can generally get within a certain margin of error. From there, we would need to look at the actual levels of fraud in each scenario.

But I don’t have that data, so I’m just going to have to go by my gut. As long as some amount of physical access is required to change votes, the results in all but the most closest elections should remain the same. This makes voting by mail viable, with signature verification on an outer envelope, especially now that all mail is tracked and you can easily check to see if a piece of mail you were expecting was in fact delivered.

Sure, some unscrupulous mail carrier could got to the trouble to make fake ballots and then deliver those, pretending they delivered the originals, and then, when the fake ballot comes back in the mail, instead send the real one they created, putting it inside the signed outer envelope, but that’s hard to do at any level of scale that would change an election. And all it would take is for someone to try and deliver the fake ballot on a day that carrier wasn’t there, and the whole thing gets discovered.

We also can, of course, have recounts and such when things are close, and then scrutinize ballots more carefully. So I do think the above is reasonable.

Online voting remains out, outside of the military where they can secure the network and such. So that’s as far as I can say I would go.

Living in a nation where voting in federal, state and local elections is nominally* compulsory, I just don’t get why an advanced western democracy would be at all invested in restricting the ability of citizens to vote. The very concept is bewildering to me.

So, for example, when you turn 18 here in Australia, you register to vote, through the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). IIRC, the government sends you a notice when you are about to turn 18 that you are legally required to register, although some percentage of the populace never quite gets around to it of course **

This is nowadays all done online, but again, if my memory serves me, all I had to do to register was attend a Post Office with my letter from the government. Back in those days I didn’t have any formal ID, just had to show my name with an address, or a statutory declaration from a Justice of the Peace (likely the local pharmacist). Then I was good to go.

Any time I changed address, the AEC would remind me to update my voting precinct, but even if I didn’t, I could vote ‘absentee’ at any polling booth in the country. Oh, and voting for all elections in Australia is ALWAYS on a Saturday making it easier for the punters to vote in person***, but of course pre-voting, mail voting and absentee voting are all good too, so nobody gets shunted out of the system unless they actually want to.

I guess that’s the difference. If you want to vote in Aus, there is absolutely nothing stopping you. Literally NOTHING. You get to cast your vote no matter what. If you would rather not vote, then there’s a few hindrances…

  • There is a fine for not registering to vote, but rarely enforced.
    ** Some people are just apolitical, or apathetic, and I reckon it’s OK that those people exercise their freedom to NOT vote. HOWEVER, I still would prefer that the people of any democracy show interest and enthusiasm in the voting process.
    *** Those slackers miss out on a Democracy Sausage. Why they would choose to do that leaves me perplexed too.

There is minimal insecurity in the voting process in Australia. We register, we rock up on voting day, we tell the person behind the table our name which is then marked off with a pencil and a ruler, we are handed our ballot papers, we either fill them out faithfully, draw cartoons or pen blasphemies against the commies/fascists etc (donkey vote), then shove them into the ballot box…and depart via the Democracy Sausage Sizzle and cake stall grabbing some scones or lamingtons for our afternoon tea.

It couldn’t be easier. Why would you want to make it difficult??

a) There should be a VoterID and it should address security and identity questions

b) It should be issued automatically whenever someone registers to vote

c) When someone begins the process of registering to vote, if insufficient proof of identity is provided, the board of elections should follow through, contacting the person and providing assistance getting all documentation in order

d) Everyone everywhere should be able to vote by mail All votes should generate a paper trail that can be recounted independently of any electronic device.

e) Individual voters should be able to see confirmation that their vote has been recorded. If voting in person, the confirmation should include a “verify that you voted as you intended to vote” screen with a final chance to edit anything. I don’t know how to extend that to voting by mail without making it too easy for someone to find out how someone else voted but if I could I’d add that.

I agree with all this post but it’d be hard to nail the answer more precisely and more concisely.

There’s thread in criminal law that says “Better 100 guilty go free than 1 innocent be found guilty”. US electoral approach is “better 100 be denied the vote than one possibly illegitimate vote be counted”

Actual voter fraud in the US is barely measurable but how many fraudulent one do you need to affect the result? Especially if you bin both first past the post and winner takes all. Determine elections by proportional representation and you need millions of illegitimate votes to swing an election, which can only be done electronically.

Australian here. On the given Saturday I walk less than 100m to my local polling booth. If I get my timing right I don’t need to queue. Get it totally wrong I queue for maybe 20 mins.
You are greeted by a scrutineer who directs you to the next free polling officer who asks you your name. They look up the electoral roll (which is a hardcopy folder of all registered voters in the electorate). You are asked to confirm your address. Your name is crossed off the roll. The officer gets a copy of each paper ballot. Usually there are two. One about B5 size, the other often A2 or bigger. Then they ask “Have you voted before, today?” Answer “No” and they initial both papers and off you go to vote. No more security than that. No ID is required. The key is the preparation and maintenance of the electoral roll.

If you were to say give somebody else’s name, address and maintain a straight face, you’d probably get to vote again. If you did that at every polling station within driving distance you might be able to vote 100 times. There are 110,000 votes in this electorate. You are pissing in the wind if you think you that would influence the result. And there are sufficient cameras around and people who may know or recognise you to be caught.

The US have many more voters per electorate and far fewer polling stations. An individual cannot, by their own efforts affect the result even with intent. Except electronically.

While I’m against compulsory voting, I do think Australia has a fantastic electoral system otherwise - and that’s largely thanks to the work of the Australian Electoral Commission and its state equivalents.


There’s a third requirement, in addition to the two that @BigT mentions. It must be easy, it must be secure, and it must be seen to be secure. This last is relevant for electronic voting: Electronic voting can be made to be far more secure than any paper voting system, but because most people don’t understand the cryptographic techniques that would go into making it secure, they won’t trust it.

This causes difficulty, because the appearance of security is often at odds with the other two. Look at the American banking system, for instance: It’s easy, and it has the appearance of security, but it has almost no actual security. And then there are all too many Americans for whom ease of voting inherently looks like a lack of security, as appears to be seen in the OP.

Election judge in the US here.

It works much the same in my county, except that the roll book is computerized. Before the polls open, the election judges run an update on the file to assure that any voter who cast a ballot the day before is marked as having already voted.

The judge asks the name of the voter and if (as in 99+% of the cases) the voter has not already cast a ballot or received a vote-by-mail ballot (which are issued only on request), the judge confirms address and date of birth. The voter signs on the screen, and the judge compares that signature with the one on record. Assuming they match, the judge and a judge from the other major party initials to indicate this is indeed the voter.

The computer screen indicates which ballot the voter should receive – typically, a polling place includes more than one precinct so local elections may differ. The judge initials the ballot and the voter goes to a booth to vote.

There are procedures to handle any anomalies, such as a voter having received a vote-by-mail ballot but didn’t send it in, voter signature doesn’t match the signature on file, etc.

In my state, you can register to vote on the day of the election. Often this is because the voter moved and neglected to change the registration. Sometimes though it’s a voter who has never voted before – usually someone who recently turned 18. In that case, we’d typically announce, “First time voter here!” and all the judges would applaud.

Living in a nation where voting in federal, state and local elections is nominally* compulsory, I just don’t get why an advanced western democracy would be at all invested in restricting the ability of citizens to vote. The very concept is bewildering to me.

Because if you stop the opposition from voting you can win more elections. This is especially important when your platform isn’t as popular than the other guy.

One of the more important things they do to make voting harder is to restrict the number of polling places in the “wrong” neighborhoods. A friend of mine lived in Ohio in 2000. A few weeks before the election the Republican government moved dozens of voting machines from poor black neighborhoods in Cleveland where they were desperately needed to rural areas where they weren’t needed at all. As a result, some of the Cleveland precincts stayed open till midnight with people waiting in line for hours and many giving up and going home. That election might have been stolen in Ohio, rather than Florida.

One problem with US elections is the number of elective offices means the ballots will be long and complicated. In Canada where I will be voting in a few weeks, most elections elect just one office. The exception is when I vote for local councilman and mayor at the same time. Aside from that, the only elected offices are member of the Federal parliament, member of the Quebec assembly, and member of the school board.

Easy. Because you don’t want to hear from all citizens/residents. Especially those who are likely to vote against the ones making the rules.

Having long and complicated ballot papers certainly is a problem best avoided, but the US is a long way off claiming bragging rights on that front. And despite the origami skills required to manage a ballot paper for NSW Legislative Council in 1999 extending 102cm by 70cm (40" x 28") showing 264 candidates for 81 to elect 21 MLCs these were successfully completed and counted.

NSW was “lucky” in that it was able to print this monstrosity of democracy needed in 1999 because they could fit the 84 parties in three rows. In Federal elections regulations preclude that and whilst using the same width paper (and less parties) required the names are printed in 6pt type and are barely legible and the AEC was offering magnifying sheets.

Antony Green, Australia’s Nate Silver, discusses the problem in 2013. (7min video)

Progressively tighter regulations on what constitutes a political party and voting reforms are reducing the number of single candidate, single or zero issue microparties who are in it only to game the system. The ballots are now only very large rather than table cloth sized.

In the US there is a plurality of people who don’t vote and were they to vote as a block they’d win by landslides. But they don’t because they are amorphous on voting issues. Consequently you have a plurality of people who can always make the claim “You can’t blame me for the mess we are in, I didn’t vote for them”. And the GOP and DEM are comfortable with that because it’s more effective and you are dealing with a known quantity duel from the base.

In Australia with compulsory voting, even though it’s loosely enforced, that mindset can’t apply. It’s Election Day, we are all going to vote, its a good opportunity to catch up with the neighbours and support some local charities with a coffee and democracy sausage. While I’m there, why should I vote for you?

You can’t stopped the opposition from voting, you preferably need to “win hearts and minds” or at least convince them that after the polls close a politician will win and yours is less undesirable than theirs.

one where there is no auditable paper ballots.

Oregons system seems to work well. auto registration for everyone. mail ballots automatically.

One theoretical problem may be that the U.S. constitution does not accommodate those people. In Colombia, for example, there is an explicit law that if the majority of valid votes are blank, then the election must be repeated, excluding the candidates of the first ballot.

I think that it is reasonable to expect voters to put forth whatever minimum effort it is to register to vote and produce sufficient identification in order to do so. But once you’re registered, your voter registration card/ID should be sufficient, without needing anything else.

I don’t see a problem with a well designed online voting system or mail-in system. If you issue each voter a unique voter ID number, you can track whether they voted or not, and disallow further ballots and/or invalidate anyone with more than one attempt. You could go so far as to print a QR code on the registration card, and use that with an app to vote. And you could use that to verify at in-person polling places that the person is who they say they are, that they’re in the right place, and that they haven’t already voted.

I don’t see problems with allowing polling places to be open 24 hours, or have unusual hours, or do curbside voting for the disabled or any of that other nonsense that the Texas Legislature is so concerned with.

I’d even go so far as to say that states ought to amend their constitutions such that changes to voting laws to make them more restrictive need to undergo a bipartisan legislative outside of the usual committees before being voted into law. Efforts to minimize voting fraud should have a burden of proof with respect to actual fraud before being implemented. There should be no consideration of restrictions without actual evidence of pervasive and/or widespread fraud that isn’t isolated cases or ones better explained by more mundane reasons.

Why do they need to be “at the right place”?
If you “issue each voter a unique voter ID number”, why can’t they vote at the place of their convenience, anywhere in the district or state or country?

The issue of trust and being seen to be secure in a “well designed online voting system” is not whether the polling system determines if a voter ID has already voted and/or where that ID is allowed to vote but whether your vote as cast is the same as your vote as counted.

This whole post is very reminiscent of the voting system in Canada, except for the part about compulsory voting. It really is quick and simple. And I suppose partly because it’s so easy, voter turnout tends to be quite a bit higher than typical US numbers.

I don’t claim to understand all the procedures involved in US elections, and I could have some of this wrong, but AIUI you need to register to vote before each election, and identify with a party (Republican, Democratic, independent, or something else). The actual voting may involve long lines and long wait times, at least in some areas. And due to strange laws often associated with voter supporession, the number of polling stations may be limited in some places, exacerbating wait times, and voter ID requirements may be onerous.

The way it works here is that prior to any election, I automatically get a voter card in the mail based on election board records that I never have to update or renew unless I change my address. The voter card is basically proof of registration and authorization to vote, and contains the date and location of the appropriate polling station. IIRC it also contains information about the appropriate location for early voting. I then go to the polling place on election day, which is never more than a few blocks away from the house, and have to present any kind of acceptable ID to verify that I’m the person named on the card. My name is then scratched off the list, I vote, and am generally out of there in five or ten minutes total.

There is no reason whatsoever that all voting couldn’t be this easy.

And note that this ID requirement is not onerous at all. The list of acceptable ID is literally as long as your arm.

Option 1: Show one of these pieces of ID

your driver's licence
any other card issued by a Canadian government (federal, provincial/territorial or local) with your photo, name and current address

Option 2: Show two pieces of ID

Both must have your name and at least one must have your current address.

From a government or government agency

band membership card
birth certificate
Canadian citizenship card or certificate
Canadian Forces identity card
Canadian passport (accepted only as proof of identity)
card issued by an Inuit local authority
firearms licence
government cheque or cheque stub
government statement of benefits
health card
income tax assessment
Indian status card or temporary confirmation of registration
library card
licence or card issued for fishing, trapping or hunting
liquor identity card
Métis card
old age security card
parolee card
property tax assessment or evaluation
public transportation card
social insurance number card
vehicle ownership
Veterans Affairs health care identification card

From Elections Canada

targeted revision form to residents of long-term care facilities
voter information card

From an educational institution

correspondence issued by a school, college or university
student identity card

From a health care facility or organization

blood donor card
CNIB card
hospital card
label on a prescription container
identity bracelet issued by a hospital or long-term care facility
medical clinic card

From a financial institution

bank statement
credit card
credit card statement
credit union statement
debit card
insurance certificate, policy or statement
mortgage contract or statement
pension plan statement
personal cheque

From a private organization

employee card
residential lease or sub-lease
utility bill (e.g.: electricity; water; telecommunications services, including telephone, cable or satellite)

Letters of confirmation

letter from a public curator, public guardian or public trustee
letter of confirmation of residence from a First Nations band or reserve or an Inuit local authority
letter of confirmation of residence, letter of stay, admission form, or statement of benefits from one of the following designated establishments:
    student residence
    seniors’ residence
    long-term care facility
    soup kitchen
    a community-based residential facility