Last Tuesday, I received the biggest thrill of my election-activist life.
I learned that Humboldt County, CA, has begun publishing the ballots cast in its elections. The ballots are now being made available for viewing, analyzing, and hand counting by anyone on the Internet.
Call it "Hand Counted Paper Ballots on Steroids."
We activists demand "transparency" in vote counting. But we tend to settle for little more than "the careful observation of the ballots by a handful of poll workers in the precinct, before and during hand counting." We silently consign the other 99% of the voters to trusting in those few poll workers. You might argue that this trust is generally well founded, even necessary; but trust it is, nonetheless.
Yet trust is the very antithesis of checks and balances. The greater our reliance on trust, the less our reliance on checks and balances. And only checks and balances can guarantee that the count is fair and accurate.
How can we dispense with this need for voters to rely on trust in the counting done by others? Only by making it possible for voters to personally count the votes for themselves.
That's the goal of the "Humboldt County Election Transparency Project," and that's what the Project is already accomplishing.
Humboldt County Director of Elections Carolyn Crnich deserves our accolades for blazing this trail to one of the "holy grails" of election integrity: full transparency in vote counting.
Vote counting by the people themselves. It doesn't get any more transparent than this.
[Images of the ballots from Humboldt County's June 2008 election are now available online at http://hum.dreamhosters.com/etp The images are also available on DVD.
[Discussion of the Transparency Project is underway here ]