The right to vote is a sacred right of US citizenship. Citizens register to vote within their local community. The method of voting varies based on state and federal laws. The Federal Government has some oversight, but they do not run elections. Elections are run by local and state officials.
State laws define how a vote is cast within each state. With multiple methods used to cast a vote, registered voters in America vote by paper and electronic ballot, they vote in person and by mail, they vote early or on Election Day… But who safe guards that vote? The answer to this question may surprise you.
Defend the Vote is an organization that began as part of a simple investigation into election security in Chicago. What we learned stunned us. In 2010, we documented non-citizens (some with illegal employment documentation) administering the early vote in Chicago. In 2011, in an audit of 239 polling places, our investigators discovered 139 instances where the ballot box was not sealed. Illinois law requires all voted ballots to be sealed at all times. Our investigators proved this basic law was widely ignored in Chicago.
Our first audit of elections in Illinois established that while there are extensive laws regulating the voting process, the enforcement of these laws is sporadic, at best. Our first investigations and subsequent ones have proven that citizens should never assume their vote is safe. It is a naïve assumption.
Who safeguards your vote? The answer is election security requires an actively engaged and alert citizenry. Even with state and federal laws regulating ballot security, the enforcement of these laws by local officials is based largely on a discovery of fraud. Defend the Vote has learned that proving ballot security laws are not followed is not sufficient to motivate state and federal legal authorities to get involved.
Case in Point: In 2012, in a stunning investigation, Defend the Vote proved that Suburban Cook County was not following Illinois laws specifying how they must administer the nursing home vote. These laws require a Democrat and a Republican election judge to oversee each vote. Our research proved at least 75% of Illinois most vulnerable voters living in nursing homes under Cook County Clerk David Orr’s authority had their vote administered illegally without the required two party oversight. This literally impacts thousands of Cook County’s nursing home voters.
How did the legal authorities respond? We alerted them and not a single one took action. Lisa Madigan’s office told us to have David Orr investigate himself. The Illinois State Board of Elections still has not officially responded to our request for an inquiry. About a month ago, their lawyer sent me an email stating they are working on a response.
Effectively, the official response was silence. Still, behind the scenes both Chicago and Cook County suddenly scrambled to schedule sufficient election judges to administer the nursing home vote as required by law. As a result, they did improve, but in November’s election, not all votes were administered lawfully!
Yes, a partial victory, the system improved for the last election…
Is your vote secure if the security of that vote is based on a discovery of fraud? This is the real issue. If the enforcement of election security is based primarily on the discovery of fraud, then the security of your vote is happen stance.
Happenstance security is based on luck of the draw mentality. If no one committed fraud, all is good – you win that draw! If someone is caught committing fraud, detection might erase that instance. More likely, the fraud goes undetected. You lose!
Factually, if your vote is correctly cast, tallied, recorded, and reported you have only scored a partial victory in securing your ballot. You still have to worry about the security safeguarding all the other voters’ ballots that impact your vote.
In Illinois and in most American election systems, election security is based on fraud detection. Fraud detection is hampered when security protocols are not adhered to. Our research proves that basic security protocols are not followed and that legal officials are barely willing to listen, let alone act, to protect voter’s rights.
In 2013, Defend the Vote will work to bring election security from the realm of a happenstance luck of the draw mentality to a system of best practices.
Happy New Year!