Holding an election is one of the basic functions of government. It’s nothing more than taking a head count.
Taking a head count is so simple. It’s one of the first things you learn about democracy in elementary school. A class has two choices. The teacher asks for a show of hands and someone counts the votes.
So, how and why does our government make it so complicated? And really expensive, too.
Election Interference Starts at Home
This week, we saw first-hand how government tries to make the voting process increasingly complicated. We just don’t know why exactly. It goes against the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” theory.
Final results from the 2020 Iowa Caucuses may never been known. Yes, a vote was taken. And yes, results were collected, but they’re having a hard time counting them. And then when they’re counted, no one is sure they’re real.
How does this happen? And what caused the problem?
Only, the election interference didn’t come from Russia (it never did) or the Ukraine (the “jury” is still out on this one). It came from our own government. Iowa voters had the option of using a mobile app to caucus. It was a decision made by their state government to allow the use of this app.
The largely untested app failed miserably, by all accounts. And now, the integrity of those Iowa Caucus results are in jeopardy. The app was supposed to make voting more accessible. Obviously, it failed.
Though the Iowa Caucus wasn’t exactly a smooth operation prior to 2020, it was never this bad. The state didn’t become the traditional first stop in the Presidential election process by hosting a shit show every 4 years.
2020 Election – New Voting Machines in Schuylkill County
So, how does Iowa translate to us here in Schuylkill County? It’s election interference.
Late last year, the county agreed to pay $1.6 million (the state will pick up about 60% of the cost, reportedly) to buy all new election machines.
This is the second time since 2006 that Schuylkill County government had to meddle with the election process. At the time, we thought we were entering the future with new touchscreen voting machines.
Faster results! More accurate results! That’s what we were promised.
Whether or not results are much faster — especially enough to warrant the cost of those election machines over the years — is questionable. It never really took that long to get final tallies from Schuylkill County votes in the first place.
Results are no more accurate than they were previously either.
The only thing we definitely got from the changes is a bigger bill and confusion.
And now, they’re behind the times, not us.
Back to the Future-ish
So, the reality here is that to be “with the times” in Pennsylvania elections, it’s proper to be “behind the times” as it was in 2006.
The paper trail wasn’t a concern when the county rushed to buy new voting machines to replace the system we’d used for decades. Now, it is. It’s a literal case of going back to the future.
Just in time for the April 28 Pennsylvania Primary Election, we’ll be rolling out the new voting machines in Schuylkill County. They’re going to look a lot like the machines we’ve been using since 2006 with one key feature added … a paper trail.
The new voting machines from Election System & Software, the current supplier of our machines. While they’ll look similar, they’ll have that paper receipt. Voters will take that receipt to a scanner machine located at each precinct and their votes will be recorded.
The scanned ballots provide a check on the tallies collected on the voting machines.
Now, it’s good news that Schuylkill County voters will once again have a paper trail.
But was this all really necessary? The system in place prior to 2006 wasn’t broken.
If It’s Not Broke, Try to Fix It Anyway
The problem with the 2019 mandate from the state isn’t what’s required. It’s that we had this system in place for decades in Schuylkill County. Very few election results were ever questioned.
We didn’t need a new system back in 2006. But the local government felt compelled to interfere.
And the mandate we’re forced to comply with in 2020 we actually had in place in the past. To do that, the government must once again interfere in the process. It’s only opening the door for errors and it’s all unnecessary.
They’ve taken the very simple and increasingly easy task of a head count and made it more complicated and expensive.
The old system wasn’t broke, so don’t try to fix it.