Some Modest Suggestions on Election Integrity

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Much righteous rhetoric has been thrown about recently about the recent capitol riots and the desecration of the “citadel of democracy.”  While we join in the condemnation, we think it is largely disingenuous.

Please, more log rolling, deal cutting, corruption, sexual harassment and veniality occurs within those hallowed halls than anywhere else in the country.

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Besides, the President preceding Mr. Trump had his political launch occur in the living room of a man actually involved in the bombing of the capital.

We are not impressed by the selective outrage.

The true citadel of democracy is the integrity of the election process. For if the process is not honest, and if the results are rigged in advance, there is no point in politics and representative government is a sham.

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It appears the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will conduct some kind of audit of the election.  That is a good start but we are not clear whether it is a simple recount or an inspection of the ballots themselves.

The Arizona Republic editorial page suggests Congressman Biggs and Gosar should resign if fraud is not found.

It seems perfectly legal and proper for representatives to question election results. Democrats have done that vigorously over the past few election cycles. We don’t recall the Republic demanding their resignation or those that said Trump was illegitimate and the benefactor of Russian collusion.

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Maybe we could get the Arizona Republic editorial board to resign if fraud is found, in whatever small amount it may be determined?

Our concern should be for election integrity. What has happened in the past is hard to correct but we can go forward to the future with a better system. It is unacceptable that up to half of the population believes the process is dishonest. Whether this concern is justified or not, such suspicions are corrosive to the democratic process.

Arizona could become a national leader for election integrity.

We are not lawyers or legislative bill writers so the suggestions here are conceptual in nature.

From the beginning, we need to dispose of the idea that public officials and public employees are free of bias and serve only for the public good. Public Choice economists long ago established that public employees have selfish interests just as people do in the private sector. However, unlike the private sector, there is often no outside regulation or competition to control this inherent bias. Government has a monopoly on certain societal functions.

If you are not familiar with Public Choice literature, simply look today at how the largest group of public employees, the teachers unions, actually conduct themselves. Can anyone seriously argue they are free of bias and only function to lift knowledge and do not bring their prejudices into both the class room and into politics?

Vote counting should be viewed with the same seriousness we treat private sector players who handle investors’ money. Those with the interest in the outcome have to be audited on a regular basis, not on an exceptional basis, by independent auditors.

For example, banks are supervised by both state and federal agencies such as Federal Reserve, the FDIC and state level agencies which require the use of auditors, compliance officers and bank examiners.

Likewise, the securities industry is highly regulated at both the state and Federal level and by the industry itself.

One of the principles of this regulation is that you never get to audit yourself. It has to be done by outside agencies or firms. The private firms have professional codes of conduct, special educational requirements, and reputations at stake.

We suggest the establishment of a state wide agency, The Office of Election Integrity.  Its primary job will be to regularly audit election results from city elections to Senate races and to Presidential races as well.

Audits will be conducted during each and every election cycle. It will not be an extraordinary event, but rather a routine procedure just like in the private sector.

Revenue to operate this office will come from a tax on political spending. The more money spent on elections, the more revenue is collected. It should be progressive in nature. The most expensive elections should pay a higher rate, low-cost level local elections, a lower rate. Money that comes from outside of the state will pay the higher marginal bracket, regardless of the cost of the election.

All qualified auditing firms will be chosen before any given election and selected at a public lottery by the Secretary of State. No auditor can be chosen for back-to-back elections. If such an event were to occur during the public lottery, the Secretary of State would try random selection again until a different firm is chosen.

Auditors will be present at all counting facilities.

Auditing the election results does not mean a simple recount of the vote. The real issue is what are you counting.

For example, in a bank, if we were to ask a teller at the end of the day to count the cash in her station, we would not accept a simple count of paper bills regardless of denomination or origin. You would want to check for counterfeits, foreign currency, and you would not count a $100 bill as if it was a $1 bill. Just simple counting a number of bills does not give you an accurate monetary count.

Thus, votes to be counted need to pass through a qualifying screen. The votes should be one voter, one vote.  The voter should be a citizen, a resident of the state. The voter should not be coerced or paid to vote. The voter should be alive and have a home residence, not a P.O. box or business address. Signatures should match. Once all that is determined, then a counting should take place with representative of all political parties present and auditors as well.

Our modest suggestion is that elections be audited by outside agencies in the private sector, just like firms that handle money are regulated, in the private sector.

Obviously, there are technical details to be worked out to be sure only valid ballots are counted, and they do not come arrive suddenly in the night from sources unknown. There must be a secure chain of custody between the voting booth and the counting facility

We would further suggest the end to early voting and that we have one day to vote. Absentee ballots on request can be continued but generalized mail in balloting is too insecure to allow further.

If auditing results on a regular basis delays the results, that is not much of a sacrifice for integrity.  The breathless news media can wait.

We will leave the granular details to the bill writers but we think the aforementioned suggestions would help the process.

 

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