Almost needless to say, if elections become cheating contests where the faction that cheats most effectively always wins, our republic is lost; perhaps permanently.
The difficulty of achieving the necessary level of integrity must not be underestimated. The overall process and every part of it must be carefully thought through. Every step must be engineered to make fraud substantially impossible. It must be extremely difficult and highly unlikely that election results could be nefariously controlled or influenced by any special interest group. If fraudulent manipulation should nevertheless somehow occur, its detection and correction must be virtually certain. Furthermore, the evidence required for successful prosecution of the perpetrators should be available.
It is not terribly difficult to write down the essential requirements for solid integrity.
List of Registered Voters – The first requirement is an accurate, current and complete list of citizens who are eligible to vote and have registered to do so. The list must, of course, show the voting precinct to which each voter has been assigned.
Positive Voter ID and Control – Second, there must be control mechanisms and procedures which ensure that only those on the registered voter list are allowed to vote, and only once in each election.
Durable Audit Trail – Third, there must be a durable audit trail (e.g. paper ballots) which forms the legal record of voters’ intents and supports audits to verify results.
Guaranteed Secret Ballot – Fourth, a completely secret ballot must be guaranteed for each and every voter. There are two aspects to ballot secrecy: 1) If the voter wishes to keep how she voted a secret, that must be possible; 2) If the voter wishes to prove to anyone else how she voted, that must not be possible.
Transparency, Supervision and Control – Fifth, other than any brief time when voters handle their own individual ballots, any and all handling of ballots and/or official ballot tallies must be done only while election officials and observers from opposing factions are present and able to closely and effectively observe. In order to have confidence in elections, the public needs to have a good general understanding of how elections work and have as much visibility into them as possible.
Machine Verification – Sixth, if any output of any machine can affect the election results, each such output must be checked and verified as a part of, and in the course of, normal operating procedure.
Following lessons will examine each of these requirements in greater depth.