LAST UPDATED [12/15/13] – The next general election in the US is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 4 2014. Throughout 2014 leading up to the general election, primary elections will be held in each state, with considerable variation in dates. Greatest risk areas: Centralization of vote reporting and voting machine programming, with over 99 percent of all votes counted out of public view; high percentage of vote-by-mail; poor chain of custody for vote-by-mail ballots; nontransparent and/or missing public accountability.
– Freedom: “Free” rating 1 on a scale of 1-6, with 1 being most free.1
– Election Risk: High; 7.5 on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most at risk for election fraud.2
– 2013 Corruption Perception Index: Transparency International has the United States tied with Uruguay, ranked 19 out of 177 countries.3
The most immediate risk to US elections stems from a culture of nontransparency surrounding vote counting and voter data. Reporters in the USA consistently fail to ask the right questions. Private industry has essentially been made an agent of the state, performing the actual programming for vote counting computers, and in some cases also controlling results reporting. American election procedure violates international standards in several material ways.
– Observation of actual ballot-counting, with ability to see and authenticate each vote choice, is generally prohibited, replacing meaningful authentication with semantics. “Watching the process” — for example, standing behind a window to watch people moving around in a room — has been allowed to replace observing the count of the votes themselves. In many locations, even the officials in charge of certifying the election are not permitted to see votes counted. International freedom standards require independent observers for the vote count.
– Ballot tracking mechanisms, affixed to most vote-by-mail ballots and many electronic voting systems used for early voting, violate secrecy of the ballot. International standards require a secret ballot.
– Chain of custody is weak for absentee ballots, with ineffective protections against wholesale ballot-stuffing by election workers. Mailing databases — the ultimate controlling system for who gets ballots and where they are delivered — are outsourced to private vendors, or individuals. Video surveillance systems to watch over ballot storage and handling are used inconsistently, almost never available timely to the public. We can fill up our phones with video of grandbabies and boyfriends; video surveillance is typically configured for online viewing nowadays, but election officials seem unwilling to put “many eyes” on ballot chain of custody.
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Election transparency: Election transparency is the public ability to see and verify each essential step in elections, the essential steps being: (1) who can vote (voter list), (2) who did vote (poll list, or participating voter list), (3) counting of the vote, and (4) chain of custody. Reasons for transparency with sources: http://blackboxvoting.org/transparency/
All Black Box Voting stories related to election transparency: http://blackboxvoting.org/category/election-transparency/
- Freedom House: Freedom in the World 2013- United States Report. New York, US: Rowman & Littlefield (2013) ISBN 978-1-4422-0122-4 ↩
- Election Risk Rating: compiled by Black Box Voting by applying an election integrity taxonomy to public records, news reports, citizen reports and field observations. ↩
- The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (see: http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2013/results/ ) ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. A country or territory’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 – 100, where 0 means that a country is perceived as highly corrupt and 100 means it is perceived as very clean. A country’s rank indicates its position relative to the other countries and territories included in the index. This year’s index includes 177 countries and territories. ↩