One of the main goals of the TrustTheVote Project is to increase voter confidence in election results, by the use of election technology that is substantially more trustworthy and transparent than similar technology in use today. One of the main reasons for the importance of this mission is the experience of some high profile close elections in the last few years.
But how frequent are “close elections” really? Speaking for myself, the handful or so of very high profile close elections, taken together, is plenty enough reason for me to work toward those goals. Of course, there are thousands of local elections every election cycle, and many of them are “close” — or at least close enough (margins low in 3 digits of votes) that voter technology error could have skewed the results.
But I recently learned that the incidence of close elections is much higher than I imagined. The state of New Jersey recently issued a report on close elections in NJ, supplemented by healthy slug of supporting data. My thanks, again, to the erstwhile Joe Hall for pointing me to it, and for this summary of a single year of close elections in NJ:
In the last year, eight elections were decided by a single vote, and 66 elections had a margin of less than 1%.
Wow! Extrapolate nation-wide, and you’ve got a substantial portion of the electorate residing in an electoral district with an election close enough to doubt the accuracy of the count. And local elections for local offices are often the ones that have the most local effects for voters. So, for the one third or so of people who polls report as doubtful about correctness of vote counts, I’d say a whole lot of them could conclude (if they knew the type of stats we’re seeing from NJ) that at least once in their voting history, an election went the wrong way.
Now, I have no way of assessing the truth of that claim, but it is the belief that is the important part, rather than a guess at likelihood or the importance of the office elected. Putting the one-third poll results together with these stats from NJ, I see a simply un-acceptable degree of un-confidence in our election system to deliver. And where technology is part of those doubts, then I think that TrustTheVote can help. That’s true both for more reliable technology, and for cases where increased transparency can increase trust in the process.
That’s my motivator for the week!