What are your concerns about election security and accessibility?

Spin-off discussion from About that "end of democracy" talk:

We have a lot of P&E topics about the politics of other people, so I would like to try and change things up a little. I’m interested in reading what concerns or issues fellow dopers have with election security and accessibility. I’m hoping maybe we can read eachother’s posts, and maybe discuss whether the concern is valid or not and to what extent, and if there is agreement we can pivot to dedicated topics about solutions.

I have the U.S. in mind, but I would also love to read other people’s opinions on their own country’s election security and accessibility.


My biggest concern is that Republican state officials are trying to change the rules such that they will be able to reject elections that don’t go their way, without evidence, and declare victory for their preferred candidates.

So I’m not particularly concerned about voter fraud, although a woman in my county just pleaded no contest after they found ~120 fraudulent voter registrations. (She was changing affiliation from D to R or no party, and we are a closed primary state)

I am concerned, at least in one respect, about too much accessibility. The above mentioned person was nearly elected as Republican committeewoman (or something), I’m guessing because people Christmas-tree the local election just because it shows up when they only really want to vote for President.

I am also concerned about foreign states turning our elections, particularly Russia. I find this prospect terrifying and have a deep mistrust of electronic voting machines (which we use in Florida and have used since before I could vote). But I don’t know much about election security.


edited to correct the bolded segment

Well, I’m a Canadian, but my concerns about US election security is pretty much as in the quoted posts. Voter fraud from voters is virtually non-existent, but voter disenfranchisement is absolutely huge. And disenfranchisement is being driven entirely by the GOP, it seems.

Why do I care? Because of the “End of Democracy” thing, really. Democracy only works when people believe it works - it’s literally a huge magic illusion. And the events of the last two decades have done nothing but erode people’s confidence in democracy. Whether it’s Republicans spinning tales of millions of illegal voters, or Democrats pointing out the adverse affects of gerrymandering and disenfranchisement, the cumulative effect is to decrease faith in US democracy on both sides of the political scale.

That can’t continue indefinitely. At some point, it will break, and I fear that point is far closer than a lot of Americans are willing to admit.

And this matters to Canada because when the US descends into violence and dictatorship, no matter who fires the first shot, Canada is going to get sucked down the drain with you, no matter what we actually decide to do.

The rest of the world cares for similar, although perhaps slightly less intense, reasons. The collapse of the US will not be pretty, and will not leave anyone unscathed.

Yes! Not my biggest concern but this one is up there. I’m not sure if I trust my local media to tell me if one of the downballot elections I’ll vote in could be or actually is overturned by trickery. I remember it came out that the newspaper had a policy not to say anything good about President Obama, and they said it’s not newsworthy for a local to meet the President of the U.S. I wish I could trust my supervisor of elections but he is also a well known partisan hack and former legislator.


Voting machines would not be used if there weren’t so many down ballot elections. When we vote in Canada, we get a paper ballot and, depending on the election, it is either for one member of parliament, or one member of the provincial assembly, or one local councilman and one mayor. At most two seats are filled on any ballot. They are machine readable, but can also be hand counted without difficulty. I remember voting in PA in 1960 and filling dozens of offices. The voting was in a mechanical machine, but there was, obviously, no internet and really no opportunity for chicanery.

It used to be the case in Canada that the government undertook house to house canvassing to register voters. They no longer do that, but you can register when filing income tax returns, which I imagine most voters do. Before I became a citizen, it took some effort to avoid being registered (as I was, one year, by a neighbour, to a canvasser).

NJ went from the old mechanical machines (which I liked, but I guess were unreliable), to an electronic machine with no verification (which I didn’t like) to mail in ballots last year, to SAT-style paper ballots this year.

I like the SAT-style ones – you know what you voted for and you know that your vote was accepted immediately. I also like mail-in ballots, because of the convenience, and I like having that option.

So, we went from good to bad to better to best (paper with the option for mail in for anyone).

The other nice thing about the paper ballots is that lots of people can be filling them out at the same time – the machine reads them quickly. That has to be cheaper than one giant electronic or mechanical machine per person.

The downside is that you get shorter lines in crowded urban areas, allowing more poor and minority folks to vote with less hassle, so I doubt Florida will go back to paper.

Washington State has done voting that way for years and it’s awesome. Convenient, reliable, and easy. It should be the default everywhere in my opinion.

I’m worried about their influence, and how they may work to manipulate the electorate as they did in 2016. I’m not worried about them actually manipualting votes.

Depends on the type of machine. In Ohio, at least in my county, we vote by filling in black squares next to our candidate or answer to an issue, then we file them into a machine that tabulates them. That’s electronic.

I also have no problem with a machine that, after you use a touchscreen to make your choices, then prints a paper ballot for you to inspect for accuracy.

The concern I have is machines that have no paper trail at all, that just takes your vote and sends it along with all the other electrons into a black box that no one can actually see into. I don’t know that those are compromised, but I also don’t know that they are not.

It doesn’t even need to be nefarious. In Belgium in 2003, a candidate got an extra 4096 votes. After much research, it is thought that that was due to a cosmic ray hitting the memory and flipping a single bit. If there is no paper trail, there is no way of being sure that the vote totals reflect the actual votes of the people.

I think that every form of voting should leave a papertrail that can be manually counted to verify accuracy of vote totals.

Yeah, that’s what we had in NJ for a few years.

We do have SAT-style ballots here (optical scan something something), although I think the form of voting is decided by county. I fill out my ballot with a pen, walk over to the machine, where the nice lady tells me to feed it into the machine. The machine will say you are voter #16 or whatever and the lady gives me a sticker.

I’m allowed to bring my sample ballot too, but that’s on normal paper and the real ballots are a different size and thickness.

I have never personally seen a line to vote but I understand in many places that is a major concern. I think the highest vote count I was given was in the low 100s, on election day 2016.


I have seen people turned away from the polling place, twice. One of these people was told to report to a different city, and I wonder how many votes are lost because people are in the wrong place or go at the wrong time. On the other hand I understand that they have to print the ballots and each locality is different.

I myself also went to the wrong polling place once when it changed from the local armory to the local library two blocks away.


We have the paper trail, I think they have to keep them for two years or something. But IIRC nobody is allowed to look at them, not even for a recount. If the margin is within half a percentage point the ballots go through tabulating machines a second time. If it is within some even smaller fraction of a percentage point the second time I think actual people will look at ballots… but only the ballots that the machines thought were invalid. I don’t think real people are allowed to second-guess a tabulating machine that records a vote one way or another.

And the machine, when you use it, does not tell you how it is recording your votes. It doesn’t print a copy for inspection. It just increments a number showing how many ballots were processed, and I think there’s like a green light or a check mark or something.


Well, yes, but if every vote is counted fairly and accurately, Democrats tend to win. And that is the problem that the Republicans are currently trying to eliminate.

My county has recently fixed this by printing your ballot when you show up. So as long as you live in the county you are good to go, regardless of whether it is your precinct or not. It’s brilliant - almost as good as universal mail-in voting.

My biggest concern about election security and accessibility is actual a bit of a meta-concern. I worry that the noise around both issues will lead to an unrecoverable lack of trust in the actual process of democracy.

That and gerrymandering, but perhaps that is not an actual election issue for this thread.

The electrons do the actual voting for you on your behalf. That’s why they’re called electrons.

oh, you


Here in Maricopa county, home of the CyberNinja fraudit, we have paper ballots but they are counted by machine – when there aren’t people looking for bamboo.

Then you hand your ballot in, it’s fed into a machine that checks for overvotes and spits it back out if it finds any. Undervotes or perfect votes the ballot is dropped into the ballot box which is then carted to the registrar’s office where the votes are actually tallied.

I admit, this idea has been growing on me. I only wonder how they verify your voter registration. I assume they use a computer, because it would be impractical to print the entire voter register for the entire state at each precinct. Actually come to think of it, the poll workers always used a computer to verify my voter registration - I remember spelling my name out for them to type. It’s the same machine the signature device is hooked up to, I think. I wonder if that computer is connected to the internet or if it is certified by the state in any way. All I can find is the statute (Fla. Stat 98.461(2)) authorizing such a machine’s use instead of a printout of the voter rolls, no provision is made for certification or other security measures.

It would certainly have to be connected to a network if we allowed for election day voter registration (which we currently don’t). And unless we have a special set of cables connecting each polling place, that network would be the internet. Should I be concerned about the security risk of having uncertified register database connect to the internet? The worst a bad actor could do is, I’m thinking, a denial of service attack on the network to prevent the machines at the polling place from accessing the central voter database. That way everyone who comes in will forced to cast provisional ballots, which must be reviewed by actual people with strict standards before they can be tabulated (by machine); if the canvassing boards are overwhelmed it could cause Florida to miss the certification deadline. The alternative response is to cancel the election which is just as bad.


Doesn’t really have to be.

Could have dial-up, connected to a dedicated server somewhere.

But even if it is over the internet, VPNs have gotten good enough that I wouldn’t really have security concerns on that part of election security.