President Trump wants law-enforcement officers watching polling stations come election day.
That decision is one way to show how Trump views our democracy.
Fortunately, two nonprofit organizations offer us another vision of how democracy can work. One group created an app that helps people document vote totals at polling stations. The second organization puts that app to good use.
Democracy Counts, a hi-tech start-up based in San Diego, forms part of the team. The group created an "Actual Vote" app, which is available for free at the Apple App Store. It will also be at the Google Play Store soon.
Citizen auditors used the app in March and August in Broward County, the second most-populous county in the third most-populous state, to record polling tapes that are displayed at polling stations after voting ends.
The volunteers, part of Citizens Audit of Broward, in Florida, found discrepancies in the vote totals government officials made public after both primary elections. This is what an OpEdNews article revealed after the March presidential primary:
Jamie Friend, a leader of Citizens Audit, said volunteers also learned that workers at some polling stations did not follow the law, which requires that polling tapes be posted for public viewing. Of course, the law also allows folk to record the public record. Friend said some poll workers prevented citizen auditors from doing this.
Recording the poll tapes with the "Actual Vote" app is the first step in the audit process. Volunteers then file requests for public documents, which they compare with the poll tapes to try to explain discrepancies. This part of the job takes time and requires money when government officials use the law to charge citizens for public records.
But auditors keep working, even after recording the poll tapes and comparing the results with totals announced by the government.
One way to seek more accurate election results is for citizen auditors to request meetings with election officials to review their findings.
Sometimes, such a meeting can uncover other unexpected treasures.
Recently, a citizen auditor found another story while meeting with Broward County election officials to reconcile the March vote count.
Perry Busby is an author, columnist and IT expert who deployed software for the International Space Station.
He wrote two columns for The Westside Gazette, a Ft. Lauderdale weekly, explaining what he found. Busby also gave ink to official denials, including from Election Systems & Software, a voracious and powerful voting-machine vendor based in Omaha, NE. Links to these two columns provide the details.
Broward County may make news for running elections that lead to controversy, recounts and legal disputes.
Even so, the county is not unique; many Americans vote but don't bother to kick the tires on the jalopy of a system we take out regularly for a spin. Citizens in about 10,000 voting jurisdictions have the power, though, to help restore confidence.
Democracy Counts, which has more election apps in development, gives us a tool that has been tested in Broward County. As founder and CEO Dan Wolf notes, documenting discrepancies in vote totals is important if someone goes before a judge to question an election result. After all, judges respond favorably to proof.
This is also why an army of citizen auditors is necessary. The "Actual Vote" app is meaningless if people aren't willing to use it.
That's probably why Wolf tags his emails with the following saying: "Raising an army of independent public auditors to protect our democracy."
My support for raising an army of public auditors does not mean I view election officials as incompetent.
Far from it. If anything, election agencies are strapped for cash, and lack adequate staffing and public support.
On top of this, they have to deal with ever-changing technology and threats from foreign governments.
So, initially, citizen auditors may seem out-of-place to government employees used to doing things without a great amount of input from voters.
Over time, though, the citizen auditors can become part of the team of concerned Americans who want our voting system to work better and more accurately.
(Article changed on September 29, 2020 at 22:48)
(Article changed on September 30, 2020 at 17:42)