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After casting my vote, I wondered why we don’t get a vote receipt. I typed up my thoughts (linked article) along with a left field suggestion about how to up the participation rate, but all you folks must have thought about this too. What are your thoughts? Thanks!


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    I think the arguments around coercion and bribery for votes are quite compelling. Any system that proves to me who I voted for can also prove to someone else who I voted for; this feels extremely risky.

    And offering a sweepstakes as an incentive seems interesting, but doesn’t seem to drive a politically engaged populace. I guess it would force the government to ensure that adequate voting sites are available which is a net positive, but I’d rather drive people to the polls by having candidates that push policies that improve their material conditions.

    Voting in my county works in a way that addresses your concerns: a voter makes selections on an electronic machine that prints a paper ballot. The ballot contains the names of the candidates you voted for, as well as a “Scantron” representation. Once your ballot is printed by the machine, you run it through an optical scanner that records the votes, and you then seal it in an envelope and put it in a locked box. Certifying the vote involves taking random samples from across the county and comparing the recorded optical vote against the printed paper vote. And all paper ballots are preserved for recounts/full audits.

    In my mind, this appears to be a fairly tamper resistant system: an attacker would need to effectively change two counts - the electronic count, and the paper ballots as well. Any attack I thought of had many moving pieces.

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      The biggest attack on paper + electronic systems is to not routinely count the paper ballots. As we saw this week, it also makes it easier to restrict voting opportunities by doing a crappy job at deploying the machines.

      Your comments on coercion are valid and at the heart of secret voting.

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        This is decent but a problem with such systems (and similar systems that use a VVPAT printer for the paper trail) is that this stuff isn’t obvious. Consider the latest texas goof up, where texas machines were switching votes and many people didn’t really think to verify before submitting. There’s a risk the machine messes up and people neglect to check the paper ballot.

        The system we have locally is a paper ballot you mark, which gets scanned in (scanner can detect problems and tell you, too). Scanner keeps an immediate internal tally (printed out by the end of the day), and also keeps the paper ballots in an internal receptacle. The scanner printout, the scanner’s memory bank, and the contents of the internal receptacle all get sent out to the registrar of voters at the end of the day.

        Marking the ballot is easy and hard to mess up (and you don’t have to check anything for machine-caused mistakes), but there’s still a paper trail.

        So this system is okay, but you can make it better by removing machines from the ballot-marking stage of the process entirely.

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          Instead of offering rewards, like a lottery, we could make voting mandatory. That would help enforce adequate voting sites.

          I think San Francisco is getting something like the process you mention, in 2019.

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          I made a long thread about this (and other properties of voting systems) a couple weeks ago

          A very important property of voting systems is secrecy. Once you drop in your vote, nobody should be able to tell who you voted for. This includes yourself – you should not be able to prove who you voted for.

          This protects against candidates paying for votes, as well as people forcing you to vote a certain way. Once you’re out of the polling place, you’re free to lie about who you voted for and nobody – not even someone with power in the government – can tell if you’re lying.

          Coercion is absolutely a problem in the united states. Often families are forced to vote the way the patriarch does. Many polling places in the South will even help families get adjacent voting booths (this is bad).

          Secret ballot is a property of voting systems that is there quite universally – most countries have it.

          Alameda County – the county in which I was helping run a polling place –does give you ballot stubs that you can take home. These don’t have your vote on them (they do have a unique ID) but you can use them to prove you voted (e.g. if you need to prove to your employer you voted so you can justify taking the 2 hours paid leave California requires employers to give you on election day)

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              Reading your thread about ID, and about secure elections (no personally identifying paper trail) made me realize it’s actually quite easy to be ineligible to vote and still vote and there is no way to track this. A certain someone keeps harping on illegal voters and I drink the kool-aid that this is all over blown, but now I realize that anyone with any kind of id can just vote and we can’t track legality - we can only, after the fact, identify people who registered to vote illegally and only after systematically going through the whole voter roll and tracking down everyone and checking their citizenship. In the polling station I went to in Mass they don’t need any signature, so one can claim someone else voted in their name and so on. They took my ID, but I can’t remember if that was just because they initially couldn’t find me on the rolls, so I think you just need a name and address.

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                You sign the voter roster under penalty of perjury, and if you’re voting provisionally that all gets dealt with later.

                If you are voting for the first time they often need ID because of the HAVA act, but otherwise there is no ID requirement in many states (california too).

                A lot of things in this country operate under trust that you’re not lying in a situation where lying is illegal. It works out.

                There’s plenty of research showing that the threat of illegal voting is extremely low. Illegal voting is very hard to scale, and if you’d like to flip an election you’d need a lot of illegal voters. The chances of getting caught go up dramatically as you try to scale this. It’s not worth it; and very few people do it.

                Your argument is that you can game the system. That is true, but that doesn’t mean people do game the system, and that doesn’t mean that it’s worth it to game the system.

                OTOH a lot of people don’t have photo id. The cons of requiring id outweigh the pros. Disenfranchising a large segment of our poorer population is totally not worth it to catch a couple cases of voter fraud.

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                  Don’t want to start this discussion on lobste.rs but that makes me worry - because now there is an incentive for candidates to treat illegal voters as a voting block and cater to them, just like any other voting block. This creates a market for this. May be I should try and understand more from you via message.

                  I recall telling someone canvassing for votes a few years ago (local election) that I couldn’t vote because I wasn’t a citizen (at that time) and she just shrugged in a strange way. I always puzzled about that. It wasn’t “Oh, yes you can’t vote, bye.” almost a wink-wink.

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                    That could also be because non-citizens can still be politically active – in fact iirc non citizens are often over-represented amongst campaigners because that’s all they can do to affect the election.

                    I know non-citizens who have been canvassed and asked to help phone bank or whatever when they explain they’re not citizens.

                    Again, scaling a process of catering to illegal voters is hard. Every single vote you try this for is an opportunity to get caught; you can’t do it in bulk. And a wink-and-nudge isn’t enough since you still have to explain how to impersonate a different voter or whatever – most people don’t know how voting works.

                    It is totally possible for a single person to vote illegally. This process is very hard to scale without getting caught. Furthermore, it has not historically been a problem, and still isn’t.

                    Voter fraud fearmongering is typically used to enact hurdles to voting that end up disenfranchising legitimate voters.

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                      One of the most salient political issues in the US right now is the presence of tens of millions of illegal immigrants on US soil, and the question of what, if anything, should be done about it (anything from “national borders are inherently illegitimate” to “greatly expand the size and power of the government’s law enforcement apparatus in order to deport them all”). Many illegal immigrants have some kinds of official documentation, because not all parts of the government are the ones that check for citizenship/legal residency, and because deliberately not checking for citizenship/legal residency when interacting with government services is a politically-popular pro-immigrant position in many jurisdictions (of course, it’s also a massively unpopular position in other jurisdictions).

                      If someone’s presence in the country at all is illegal, but they are part of a group of tens of millions with similar status, know that enforcing the law (i.e. deporting them) is logistically difficult for law enforcement and very politically contentious, and in general feel like they are rightfully Americans, just without documentation, I find it very plausible that they might decide to cast a vote, and that the mechanisms to detect illegal voting wouldn’t detect them doing so. I don’t think that doing something under penalty of perjury is a significant deterrent to someone whose is already subject to deportation if the parts of the government that enforce immigration law learn about it.

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                        I find it very plausible that they might decide to cast a vote

                        They can’t cast a vote under their own name though, they have to be registered.

                        And as the OP mentioned it’s much easier to be caught during the registration process.

                        What they have to do is turn up at a voting place, and impersonate someone else. This is very much an actively malicious act, not a passive “I feel like I’m american, i’ll vote” act where there’s more misunderstanding than malice.

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                          hah I just brought up where that happened to my great grandfather, the misunderstanding option though. He thought he had done all the proper paperwork but he had not. I don’t have the full story though he may have gotten a visa confused with citizenship or something, the world will never know.

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                            You don’t need proof of citizenship to register. I did it online.

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                              Sure, but once done it’s something they can look for and catch at any time they want. Unlike voting under someone else’s name – if not caught that day (e.g. if the person being impersonated comes in and tries to vote later), it won’t be caught at all (but this is fine because it doesn’t scale).

                              When you register online you’ll provide an SSN or state id number, both of which can be traced to citizenship status. The state may not be interested in helping the federal government deal with illegal immigrants, and may not care about citizenship status in general, however the registrar of voters definitely will care about these things.

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                                I gave my drivers license I think. Don’t recall if that is tied to my ssn. If registration is linked to ssn then its less scary because automated scans can be done re: eligibility

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                                  I’m registered in california; I registered through my state id (you can autoregister when you apply for an id). When you register online you either provide an id number or ssn.

                                  When I want to access my voter settings (change vote by mail preference, check if my VBM ballot was counted, check my polling place, etc) it asks me for an id number or ssn. Being too lazy to fish out my id I just use my SSN, which I know. It still works, despite having registered through my state id.

                                  This stuff can be linked if they want to, usually.

                                  And again, evidence shows that none of this is actually a problem.

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                            Yeah except all research on this issue shows that voter fraud is exceptionally rare. Some of the most recent examples were conservatives who thought voter fraud was easy with this exact mindset and got caught. My great grandfather found out he wasn’t actually a citizen when he went to vote, they told him he couldn’t because he wasn’t a citizen, and then went to mexico and applied for proper citizenship in the US.

                            The reality is voter fraud, intentional or accidental is actually deceptively difficult. There are actually many layers at every step of the process that end up preventing this from being a problem. Voting machine based voter fraud, that may be a real thing, and we’ll probably never know how much. Humans walking in to do voter fraud, accidental or purposeful is statistically not a thing.

                            Even Trump’s voter fraud investigation turned up dust.

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                              I don’t think that doing something under penalty of perjury is a significant deterrent to someone whose is already subject to deportation if the parts of the government that enforce immigration law learn about it.

                              But the threat of deportation definitely is - have you met anyone who’s undocumented? The ones I know are terrified of every interaction with law enforcement, DMVs, employers, etc. Go to any restaurant kitchen anywhere in the country, any farm anywhere in the country, and see if you can even get them to tell you their full name without knowing why you’re asking.

                              I sense you’re not close to any of these people. You would be subjecting yourself to an immense personal risk of losing access to all personal property, friends and family, etc just by putting yourself on a voting roll when you aren’t a citizen. I would never risk losing access to my children because of my desire to vote on anything.

                              This is outside any discussion as to what we should do about the fact that large portions of our economy depend on labor that is undocumented – but their voting power is nil.

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                                yeah I found that part of the argument absurd, but it seemed very subjective so I left it alone

                                I’ve known some illegal immigrants, all of them are very careful about this.

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                                  I sense you’re not close to any of these people.

                                  That’s painfully clear.

                                  My wife works with a community organization that serves undocumented migrants. The list of services public or private they avoid to avoid any interaction with government officials who might question their immigration status would amaze you.

                                  The thought that an organized voting fraud bloc would arise around them is positively risible.

                                  As noted in the thread, the evidence clearly shows in person fraud is a non issue; in reality, strict voter ID laws are the real problem, as they serve to disenfranchise the poor and those underserved by government while providing no real benefits.

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                            Way too many unsourced assertions here. And I hope I’m not the only Lobster for whom “just trust, don’t verify” rings hollow.

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                              here’s a whole bunch of sources from a non-partisan org: https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/debunking-voter-fraud-myth