Accurate vote counting is just as important as voting in our opinion. With the Presidential election just weeks away, it seems like a good time to remind everyone how important the vote actually is:
Elections are how “we the people” actually have a say in how our government works and how the government decides what to fix, change or let slide.
The people we vote for are the ones who make those decisions for us. Accurate Vote Counting is really the only way you can be sure you're voice will be heard. Elections decide:
- How much we pay in taxes or how little.
- How much we receive in social security or if social security even continues to exist.
- How, and even if, we’ll tackle issues like climate change and a pandemic or election fraud.
- If issues of injustice, like racism, gender discrimination, income equality and who gets privilege will be addressed at all, and if so, exactly how.
- Who will benefit from education.
- What judges will be appointed, including the Supreme Court, some for life.
- What we hope our position in the larger world will be like and how we’ll treat other countries.
- Who will be allowed to immigrate here and who will be kept out, and how far we’ll go to keep them out.
- What sort of health care you will have and how it will be paid for.
- If you can live pretty much where you choose or not.
- What rights you have or don’t have about your body. And if you don’t, who does.
- Who gets to vote and who doesn’t.
- How laws are enforced, any punishments, including if the death penalty is used or not.
- How elections are run, including ballot design, what’s public information or not, how the vote will be counted and what part the public can play in that count.
- How candidates are required to raise money for election campaigns.
- How corporations behave, including how honest they have to be and how fair.
- If or not corporations should be treated as people and be able to contribute to political campaigns.
- If government should be involved in protecting small, local businesses.
- Overseeing safety on airplanes, railroads, cars, and many kinds of boats.
- How to raise and maintain a military for defense or if we should?
- When to go to war or not.
- What rights states have and don’t have and how they can work together or not.
In a very real way the folks we elect determine how our democracy works, or doesn’t.
As you looked at this list you’re very likely to have an opinion about each item one way or the other, or at least most of them. That’s exactly why you should vote and demand that elections be independently audited for accuracy. Better yet, recruit an audit committee in your community and help make sure the vote is counted correctly. Or find someone who is willing to do the recruiting.
All these reasons and many more are why, in addition to voting, you should take action on making sure the vote is counted accurately.
That’s what we do… provide the tools to independently audit elections.
You can help independently verify the vote at your polling place by using Democracy Counts’, downloadable app to your on your smartphone and take pictures of the poll tapes for comparison with the ‘official’ record.
Curious about poll tapes? Click here.
In the world of elections in the United States, the majority of polling places actually count the votes that were cast right there at the end of Election Day. Whether touch screen voting & counting machines are used, or there are paper ballots that are run through a scanner/tabulator, the preliminary vote totals are recorded on strips of paper known as poll tapes. They look similar to the cash-register receipt you get when you purchase something, particularly when you buy a long list of items.
Usually, two copies of each poll tape are printed out and signed/countersigned by the two polling place officials. One accompanies the ballots when they are sent to the central counting office (typically at the Board of Elections, but almost any place big enough might be used) for a second counting. It’s the second count that is considered “official, but pending the production of that count the numbers on the tapes are announced as "preliminary results.” The second copy is displayed at the polling place so the general public can see the actual record of that polling place’s vote. Often it is taped to the inside of a window at the polling place with the numbers facing out. The user of our app will usually take pictures of the tapes at the polling place, but photos can also be taken at the Board of Elections office, county election office or other office that handles the election, where the tapes are stored, by law for 22 months in Federal elections. In other elections, the length of time varies by state. In other elections, the length of time varies by state.
The numbers on the two poll tapes must match the announced "preliminary results" for that precinct. If they don't agree there’s a problem. The problem may be a simple error or it might be evidence of fraud and needs investigation.
As you might imagine, the transportation of ballots and these printed strips from a polling place to the central counting office is one opportunity for ballots and tapes to get lost, switched or otherwise changed. While efforts are often made to assure that this doesn’t happen, it can and it does. Other oddities also occur. For example, Citizens Audit Broward in Broward County, Florida, took photos of poll tapes in March 2020; they discovered that 20 percent had been misreported by the election administrator. If that were to be repeated state-wide, it would be more than enough to flip a close election.
Actual Vote, the poll tape recording app
Our free downloadable app, Actual Vote, available by clicking the button below:
and for Android at this link: https://democracycounts.org/av-droid-beta). Actual Vote allows ordinary people using their smartphones to take videos of the poll tapes to record and preserve the data recorded there. Because Actual Vote also uploads the videos to our secure server, the numbers on the tape are preserved independently and can be compared with the official preliminary results announced by the Board of Elections. If there’s a difference, that difference must be explained and corrected, or an investigation is called for to discover what actually happened.
Because our founder and CEO, Dan Wolf, is a Harvard trained lawyer, Actual Vote, like all our apps, was designed from the beginning to provide court quality data – that is, data that provides actual evidence a judge can act on immediately. Used ubiquitously around the country, Actual Vote will deter or expose error and fraud in the reporting of precinct-level tabulated results, which comprises half of the opportunity space for fraud.
Our software will be open to examination at the request of a court; our goal is to be transparent and not hide behind defenses of "proprietary software" and "trade secrets". We’re happy to show authorities why they can rely on our data.
With Actual Vote, you, as an individual, can take videos of poll apes at any polling place. You can work with a partner or two, staying safe at night, making sure the tapes are lit well, even taking multiple videos. You can tell other voters in your precinct about it, or your cousin across the country, and encourage them to do the same thing. And you can volunteer officially and/or donate at our website using this link.
Anne Wayman is our VP and COO.
The founding fathers - yes, they were all men - created what we call the Electoral College with Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution. It was a compromise between those who wanted a democratic election of the President and Vice President, that is voting by the people, and those who thought Congress should make the choice.
The Electoral College was created with the intent of providing election intermediaries. It might be said to be a combination of a direct vote by the people who pick representatives (called “electors”) who then do the actual voting for the President and Vice President.
270 is the critical number
The number of electors is 538--one each for the number of U.S. Senators (100) plus one each for the 435 Representatives in the House of Representatives. In 1961 the 23rd Amendment added three more electors, when the District of Columbia was awarded the same number of electors as the least populated state - currently 3. Hence the total of 538 electors (100 + 435 + 3 = 538).
Each state plus the District of Columbia actually has its own process that regulates the choice of electors who then, when the time comes, vote for the President and Vice President. As you might imagine, the fact that each state decides how to select its electors and if the electors are bound to vote the way the voters of the state voted, makes for nuance and even confusion.
You're not voting for a presidential candidate
The bottom line is that when you vote for a Presidential candidate you’re not technically voting for that candidate but for electors who are pledged to one degree or another to vote for that candidate in the Electoral College meeting which takes place in each of the separate fifty states on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December (the 14th, this year).
Although Democracy Counts makes no attempt to audit the Electoral College, its audits of the elections at the state level on election day can have an impact by making sure the votes for those electors are accurately counted. Generally, it's the count in the swing states that makes the decision.
Photo by John Bakator on Unsplash
A swing state, sometimes called a battleground state, is one where both parties are considered likely to have a chance to carry that state in the Presidential election.
One way to understand the swing states is to see that they are the states that are most competitive because the vote there is likely to be close.
What actually determines who gets elected as President is not the nationwide popular vote, but who wins the Electoral College. Each state has a fixed number of electoral college votes, based largely on their population for a total of 538 electors. The president is chosen by a majority vote, and needs at least 270 electors to win.
Why a large majority isn't always the winner
This also explains why even a large majority of popular vote on the national level doesn’t guarantee election to office. To win, the candidate must also win in the states that will give them a majority of electoral votes, at least 270.
This is important in understanding swing states because the more electoral votes a state has, the more of interest it is for each of the two major candidates. So the battleground or swing states tend to be those with the largest number of electoral votes that also are considered winnable by either party. But the number of electoral votes is not the only criteria. For example, California which has 55 electoral votes, generally chooses a Democrat for President, thus is not considered a swing state - it’s not very competitive.
Swing states change over time
Over time the population of any state may increase or decrease enough to change the number of congressional representatives it has. The number of electoral votes each state has is equal to the number of Representatives it has plus two.
Obviously Presidential candidates structure their campaigns with the aim of winning at least 270 electoral votes and, as a result, the Presidency. If they are convinced that, say California will again vote for the Democratic Presidential candidate, the Republican candidate will focus on states he has a better chance to win. Many candidates will come to California to fund-raise, but that is a whole different issue.
Democracy Counts focuses on swing states
This is why Democracy Counts works to first hold audits in swing states. Election fraud is more likely to happen in swing states because that’s where fraudsters can have the biggest impact on the outcome. Changing a few thousand votes or even fewer in a swing state is easier than changing millions and, in some swing states can make all the difference in the outcome of the election nationwide. It has happened more than once. Of course, we’d love to audit every polling place and ideally that will happen someday. For 2020, however, we’ll be focusing on selected swing states.
What you can do
Determine if you are in a swing state or not. Ballotpedia offers good info about swing states for both the presidential election and for tight races for the senate. Contact us if you'd like to be involved in Democracy Counts citizen-run election audit.