Saturday, December 27, 2008

Health-care Reform

It has come to our attention that there may be a blog operating under the name Ultracon. Do not be deceived: This is the home of the one, true and only Ultracon—ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES.

Since America is soon to be overrun by progressives—that is, we’re gonna have an all-Democrat federal government—and since they seem intent on delivering “universal health-care” no matter the cost, it’s time to revisit some old articles of mine on health-care reform:

Our 1st article appeared at the Public Program Testing Organization, which is run by Joe Fried. (Joe’s new book garnered an interview at FrontPageMag.) Anyway, PPTO ran a longish piece of mine a while back; I don’t know if all the links are still operative. In hopes of getting readers to keep on, I tried to leaven the dry subject matter with a little humor. But I still tried to address the serious problems of the feds “giving” us healthcare: A Cold Eye on Healthcare Reform.

Our 2nd article appeared at TCS Daily. TCS was the brainchild of James K. Glassman, but is now under different management, Nick Schulz. TCS sports a fine array of writers; I discovered Johan Norberg there. I had wanted to come up with a short article for a newspaper by excising a bit of the long piece above. I don’t believe any newspaper ran it, but TCS did: What Healthcare and Higher Education Have in Common.

And our 3rd piece appeared at FrontPageMag. For current affairs, FPM is one of our most vital websites. So I was right pleased to get something accepted by them. I don’t believe they edited a word of the article, but they gave it a new title, an audacious title, full of HOPE and CHANGE: Hillary Taxes Breathing.

(In my oh-so-lucrative career as a “citizen journalist”, I’ve noticed that re-titling is the order of the day. I’d wager that this is more common in print, such as newspapers, where they’re also more likely to edit your articles (I guess so your article will conform to their Style Book). They even seem to do this with syndicated columnists, which I find beyond the pale. I once caught a big-city newspaper changing a single word of a Tom Friedman column, which reversed its meaning. I notified them and they issued an erratum. American newspapers are in dire straits. They need to come up with a different business model and move exclusively to the Internet, like the Christian Science Monitor.)

Oh yeah, don’t forget to read my pieces on health-care reform (above).

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day

In the Age of Bailouts, remember economist Allan Meltzer's sage observation:
"Capitalism without failure is like religion without sin."

Are you worried about the right things??? If EMP is not at the top of your list of worries, then check out this piece at the Wall Street Journal and this one by Mark Steyn.

I've written 5 articles on "election fraud"; you might start HERE and follow the links.


AND did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

William Blake (1757-1827)

True blue Ultracons follow these sites religiously:

FrontPageMag and National Review Online (NRO)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Quick Fix for America’s Elections

By Jon N. Hall

On March 12 before the Senate Rules Committee, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan testified on voter fraud and her opposition to photo ID laws. “A dog has never voted in Missouri, nor has a dead person come from the grave and voted…I think this shows the system is working,” [1] she said. Carnahan went on to assure the committee that there are few election problems and little voter fraud in Missouri. One might doubt her assurances: What are dogs doing on Missouri voter registries?

What’s really disheartening about America’s election problems is that the solution is so very obvious—technology. But few seem willing to seriously consider technological solutions to our election woes. Some states are even regressing back to paper ballots.

In the information technology profession we sometimes describe certain fixes in computer programs as “quick and dirty”. Well, I wanted my fix to be quick and clean. And I wanted it to be as simple and easy on folks as I could make it. My solution is not high-tech, but then it’s not low-tech, either. It’s probably middle-tech, and it’s something that could have and should have been done decades ago.

What I’ve tried to fix is the problem of corrupted voter registries. Because the states have been doing such a poor job of vetting voter registrants—verifying their eligibility—my solution takes that responsibility away from the states. I also wanted to satisfy the demands of those concerned about voter participation. And I wanted to make the process of registration as painless as possible. So my solution does 2 nifty things: It takes away the requirement to register, and yet registers everybody (citizens, that is).

However, the most important feature of this solution vis-à-vis fraud is this: The entire Social Security Number (SSN) is used to create the registries. Currently, this isn’t done. In Missouri, for instance, only the last 4 digits of the SSN are asked for.

(Incidentally, I don’t flatter myself that my solution is particularly brilliant. In fact, it’s the kind of solution that any competent computer programmer worth a hoot would think of between sips of coffee on an early Monday morning while he’s slowly letting up on the clutch trying to ease his brain into gear. In the parlance of the day, it’s “a no-brainer”. It’s a typical data processing type of solution, which I imagine has occurred to other computer programmers, causing them to wonder: Why aren’t we doing this?)


Whenever a dog, a cat, a dead person, a person in a coma or in a persistent vegetative state or in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer’s, a felon, an illegal alien, or any otherwise ineligible “voter” appears on a voter registry, or whenever anyone appears on more than one voter registry, an eligible voter is in jeopardy of having his vote cancelled out. And if anyone uses someone else’s registration or a registration established by fraud to actually cast a vote in an American election, an American citizen will have been effectively disenfranchised. His vote will have been nullified, his birthright stolen.

Throughout America, the flimsiest of IDs can get just about anyone put on a voter registry, allowing ineligibles to vote. Also, voter registries are not kept current. For instance, the dead are often not purged from voter registries for years, allowing the living to use their registrations to vote “for them”. And then there’s the failure to purge those who have moved to another state, such as Faye Buis-Ewing, which makes it possible to vote twice.

If voter registries are corrupted, how can we be assured of clean fair elections, the cornerstone of democracy?

If you are a taxpaying law-abiding American citizen, you should have little doubt that the government knows your whereabouts. If you fail to pay your income tax on time, you can be assured that the IRS will descend upon you; come to your house; perhaps even seize it. And if you run afoul of the law, the FBI, despite its computer problems, will most likely find you. (That is, unless you’re part of the criminal underworld. In which case, who cares if you can’t vote.) And you’d better hope the feds know where to send your tax refunds and benefit checks.

Certain politicians have long insisted that voter registration should be easier. But if the government already has all your data, including your address, why do they require you to register? Isn’t the requirement to register a bit like a retailer making you scan your credit card for each and every item you’re buying, rather than just once?

Friends, I’m here to tell you: You shouldn’t have to register to vote—the government should do it for you. Here’s how: The feds would write computer programs to extract each eligible citizen’s data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) database, and then send the data to the states, which would use it to create the voter registries.

The primary virtue of this method is: Only citizens would be registered. And furthermore, each citizen would be on one and only one state registry, unlike today. You could think of the SSA database as the “National Voter Registry”.

And another thing, all those volunteers laboring to get folks registered would be free to volunteer for some other noble work—everyone would be automatically registered.


If you question the feasibility of this reform, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger—I did, too. I had no doubts about my idea; it’s pretty simple. But we’re talking about the federal government here; perhaps there was some obscure something I didn’t know about. Also, I’d never worked for the feds, nor was I familiar with their databases. So I thought I better rummage through federal websites just to be sure all the information was where I thought it should be—on the SSA database.

But first, what is this information? It’s actually precious little (example here). To place an American citizen on his correct voter registry requires just 3 pieces of information: personal identification, date of birth, and address. (Incidentally, the data is so tiny the entire U.S. electorate could fit on an iPod.)

The SSA places folks on the SSA database soon after birth and naturalization, which includes name and date of birth. So the entire issue of feasibility seemed to boil down to this question: Does the SSA keep our addresses current (updated) on its database? If so, my reform would seem quite doable.

I knew that employers were already accessing the SSA database through the Department of Homeland Security’s internet-based E-Verify system to validate data on Form I-9, required of all new hires. And one of the items of information on Form I-9 is—address.

So I went to the SSA website, and there in the upper right of the screen was QUESTIONS, a drop-down menu containing Change of Address. But I discovered that the SSA doesn't carry addresses for folks who aren't receiving benefits.

There appeared to be a fly in my dang ointment—I had hit a snag. But I would not be denied; perhaps the screen was wrong and needed updating. So I telephoned USCIS, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to see if their E-Verify system allows employers to verify the address on Form I-9 in addition to the SSN. A polite helpful federal employee told me it did not.

Then it occurred to me that I myself regularly receive notices via snail-mail from the SSA, even though I’m not receiving benefits. Poking around a bit more in the SSA website, I read that the SSA gets the addresses for those notices from the IRS.

Bottom line: My reform needs something besides the extract program. There are many ways to skin a cat, but here’s what I think the feds could do:

The SSA database should “carry” the residential addresses for ALL citizens, not just those receiving benefits. The SSA would get this information from the IRS database. For many Americans, our address on the IRS database is identical to our voter registration address. These folks would be set, and wouldn’t need to do anything. But others would need to change their address on the IRS database, using IRS Form 8822.

Under my reform, “voter registration” devolves into nothing more than keeping the feds informed of your residential address. This would be the citizen’s only responsibility in “voter registration”. And you’re already doing this when you file your 1040 tax return. But if you relocate just before an election, you would use Form 8822. (The SSA even allows folks to change their address online.)

However, under my reform, even if you failed to inform the feds of your new address in time for an election, you’d still be registered to vote, albeit at your old address.

(A possible side benefit of having the addresses of all citizens on the SSA database is that it might help employer’s detect stolen SSNs when using E-verify. It would provide one more datum to triangulate on. Since identity theft has become such a big issue, America would approve.)


The whole point behind my reform is this: Voter registries should be derived from a single centralized database. Computer professionals understand the necessity of this. Anything less leaves our elections wide open to fraud and error. Insofar as data about American citizens is concerned, the SSA database is the Holy of Holies. At least, it better be. If you can’t trust it, you can’t trust anything. The SSA database is the font from which our national identities flow.

The absurdity of our current voter registration system isn’t just that American citizens are required to give government information it already has. It’s that it demands a tremendous amount of extra work and expense, all of which is unnecessary.

What’s even more ridiculous is the requirement to sign affidavits affirming that we are citizens and that we aren’t felons. Doesn’t government know whether we’ve been through its judicial system or not? The absurdity is compounded because registrars don’t have the means to verify our affidavits. That would entail the SSN. But the registrars are forbidden to ask for that. Voter registration is entirely on the “honor system”, except without the honor and the system. (Sí, Se Puede, amigo mio.)

And then to top it off, we end up with registries they are unreliable, corrupted. Wouldn’t it be better to have computers create our registries for us? All it would involve is a few dinky little computer programs that could probably be written before lunch.

So why is government making the citizenry jump through all these hoops? Why is government dumping so much work on unpaid volunteers? (Might these volunteers someday up and quit?) Why does government persist in its backward ways? The least uncomplimentary explanation is: the inertia of Congress.

Congress is great when it comes to doing the really heroic things, such as changing the light bulbs in the Capitol to compact fluorescents. But for lesser things, like bringing integrity to America’s elections, Congress needs a committee, and a study, and a report, and…well, we really need to see how they do things in Europe. Mustn’t be precipitate.

I’m not a lawyer, but I do believe my reform would require federal legislation. This is because election law is a state matter. So my reform would have to be imposed on the states by the feds. This is the real snag in my reform: getting the Do Nothing Congress to do something. This is where the “quick” part of my “quick fix” might break down. The rest of it is pretty simple stuff.

The federal government has within its means the wherewithal to create voter registries that are correct. Will it do so?

My reform actually hands the states their voter registries—on a silver platter. When the states receive their registries, they would then apply state law to them. This would mainly consist of identifying the voters who are ineligible due to state law, such as felons, and deleting them from their registry. After this is done, the states would have finalized their registries; they then would create signature rosters for each precinct, and their election could proceed.


Arizona is currently the only state to require proof of citizenship to register to vote. Arizona is also the only state to require all employers to use E-Verify. (Arizona is also home to one of America’s finest law enforcement officers: Sheriff Joe Arpaio.) Arizona seems to be more sophisticated and more advanced on these issues than other states. But then it has to be; Arizona is on the front lines of an invasion from the South.

But Arizona’s new requirements don’t do anything about those already registered. Shouldn’t Arizona require those registrants to come back and present proof of citizenship? With my reform, Arizona, along with the rest of the nation, could be assured of the citizenship of its voter registrants.

The new voter ID laws are inadequate; they go only so far. They don’t identify those already registered who shouldn’t be; they don’t correct registries; they’re just concerned with new registrants. With my reform, the states would receive new registries just before their elections, and these registries would reflect all the changes in address and eligibility since the last election.


If we really want to ensure the integrity of our elections, not only would we use the SSN to create our voter registries, we’d require the voter to produce his SSN when voting.

But can you imagine the hubbub from the American Civil Liberties Union if polling stations started demanding the SSN to vote? The ACLU is apoplectic over even a photo ID requirement. (The ACLU doesn't like E-Verify, either.)

On January 9 during oral arguments in the Indiana photo ID case before the Supreme Court, Justice Alito pointedly asked, “Is it your position that a state can’t require any form of identification and can only require a signature?”

The photo ID is the most minimal form of ID, yet the ACLU objects to it. (By the way, are polling stations in Indiana going to carry photos of their registrants? You know, so they can match them to the voters’ photo IDs?)

The SSN is a far more powerful form of identification than a photo. Requiring the SSN to vote would obviate the photo ID requirement. And seniors, whom the ACLU cares so much about, are the ones most likely to actually know their SSN, since they’re receiving social security benefits. Of course, requiring the voter to produce his SSN to vote would entail having his SSN at the polling stations, so the 2 can be matched. Which means the feds would have sent the SSN to the states along with the other registration data.

The NYTimes recently related the case of 78-year-old St. Louis resident Lillie Lewis and her difficulty in obtaining a photo ID. “I have voted in almost all of the presidential races going back I can’t remember how long, but if they tell me I need a passport or birth certificate that’ll be the end of that”, she said. How can government place such burdens on senior citizens? With my reform, the only ID Ms. Lewis would need to present at the polls would be her SSN. With my reform, the difficulty folks are having in obtaining the documents needed to get a photo ID would just float away.

If America were ever to migrate to a fully computerized, state-of-the-art system which allowed folks to vote at home or from abroad using the internet, I can assure you: The SSN will be required to vote. Until such time, we should require the SSN be written on any and all paper ballots, especially provisional and absentee ballots, the source of so many of our woes.

I’m always amazed when I encounter someone who hasn’t memorized his SSN. The reason the SSN is so important is that it is a “unique identifier”; no one else can share it. Unique identifiers are used throughout contemporary America for all manner of things. They’re what allow businesses to keep track of their inventories, and brokerages and banks to balance accounts down to the penny. Even banks themselves have their own unique identifiers: the routing number you enter on your 1040 form. The necessity of unique identifiers for life as we know it requires no discussion. Yet, we do not currently demand that voters produce their unique identifiers, even though they all have them.

Do you do online banking? The only online banking I do is transfer money between my accounts, and I don’t logon to the net to do so. I just pick up the phone and start punching numbers, and the first number I punch in is my dear old SSN. Then I have to punch in my PIN number and the numbers of the accounts from which and to which I’m transferring money. Such a transfer is done in real time, so I have access to the money immediately. Try that with a photo ID.

How concerned would you be if every monthly statement you received from your bank had errors on it, or showed other folks using your account? You’d be outraged. You’d drop your account pronto and sue the bums. Yet that is exactly the sort of thing the American People countenance with their elections. Elections should be more like banking and other enterprises that strive for data perfection.

The thing is: You can’t pay your taxes, nor get a job, nor even open a checking account without surrendering your SSN. But the ACLU seems to think you should be allowed to vote for the Leader of the Free World with a utility bill. (Why not a laundry ticket?)

The SSN is the de facto national ID. So the unauthorized creation of an SSN and, especially, the theft of an SSN are very serious crimes, and should be punished by very serious hard time. (I’d prefer such perps be drawn and quartered, but that’s just me.)

As long as we re-use the numbers of deceased citizens in a timely fashion, the SSN will be sufficient as long as our population stays below 1 Billion. So the SSN won’t present any Y2K-type problems for a good while.

If you were really obsessive-compulsive about ensuring election perfection, you’d not only require the SSN at the polls, you’d require fingerprints and a retinal scan, as well.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves; first we must fix the registries.


Creating voter registries by the method just outlined would by no means end all voter fraud, but it would make it harder to commit. Also, this method would render irrelevant such things as the Motor Voter act of 1993, which is reason enough to adopt it.

So much of what Congress and the states have done in recent years has exacerbated the problems in our elections. In trying to make registration and voting easier and more convenient, they’ve made a mountain of extra work for registrars and poll workers. In short, our elected officials have actually flung open the doors to voter fraud, made it easier to commit. They’ve complicated things, but provided no means by which to ensure that our elections are right. And again, the means by which to ensure that our elections are right is technology.

As someone who has worked on computers for years, I can see absolutely no technological reason why our elections cannot have the same precision and reliability that our banking, securities, and other computer-based enterprises have. There’s nothing to keep us from having perfect elections; elections where we know what the correct vote counts are and can prove it. We just have to get up to snuff on our technology.

However, there doesn’t seem to be much will on the part of our elected officials to move toward complete computerization of our elections, nor much interest in it. It’s easy to think that our elected officials have contempt for the voter.

But regardless of whether we upgrade to a 21st century system anytime soon or not, we still need to derive our voter registries from a single centralized database. Even if all the states were to regress back to paper ballots, this reform would still be sorely needed, even more so. It would help prevent fraud, and compared to other reforms, fixes and upgrades would be much cheaper and far quicker.

Jon N. Hall is a mainframe programmer/analyst from Kansas City.

[1] David Goldstein, “Voter I.D. debate centers on pooch”, THE KANSAS CITY STAR, March 13, 2008, B2 (The pooch in question was the infamous Ritzy Mekler)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

VOTERS: The Movie

Caution: this page under construction

Table of Contents

ULTRACON’s articles have appeared elsewhere:

Archive at TCS Daily

Archive at American Thinker

Archive at Front Page Mag ... and ... David Horowitz's NewsRealBlog

Archive at Tenth Amendment Center

These articles appeared at GOPUSA:

The Presidential Primary System And What To Do About It
The New Electorate
The Tea Party’s Big Worry

These articles appeared at PPTO (Public Program Testing Organization):

But is it Really Insurance?
Privatization: the real "nuclear option" for Social Security (2nd article)
Privatization and the deficit
A Cold Eye on Healthcare Reform

Ultracon’s articles at STAR BUSINESS WEEKLY, put out on Tuesdays by the Kansas City Star newspaper, stay up on the Internet for only a short while. Try Lexis-Nexis.



Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.




Friday, December 12, 2008

Election Fraud: Detection and Quantification

By Jon N. Hall

Without the vote, Democracy is nothing. The franchise is the core of America’s system. Universal suffrage, political campaigns, casting ballots, counting votes: These are at the very center of what we as a nation are all about. It follows then that anything that thwarts the will of We the People by compromising the integrity of an election is a dagger in the heart of Democracy itself.

But some folks contend that allegations of widespread election fraud are themselves a fraud. For them, election fraud is a "myth", a “witch hunt”; like looking for “Sasquatch”. They maintain that the evidence for election fraud is “painfully skimpy”.

One little problem for these folks is the successful prosecutions—people are in jail for election fraud. Since we know election fraud occurs, the question should be: How prevalent is it? But nobody knows the answer to that, and for reasons that will become “painfully” clear.

So, how would you go about demonstrating the true size of our election fraud problem? Here’s just some of what you would have to do:

To begin with, you would need to verify voter eligibility. Yes, this was supposed to have been done when folks registered. But voter registries throughout America carry listings for those who are NOT eligible, including pets, literary characters, and illegal aliens. But not only do we have registrations created by fraud, we also have registrations due to error and to election officials simply not getting all their work done on time. By which I mean the failure to purge those who have died, become incapacitated, moved to another state, or become ineligible due to felony conviction. Some registries even have more registrants than residents of voting age.

So here at the very outset of your task you run into a major snag: The means by which you must prove your claims, the registries, are what we in the data processing profession would call “corrupted”, i.e. bad data, unusable data. But wait, it gets better.

Not only must you verify the eligibility of the registrants on each registry, you must show that each registrant is registered on no other registry. So for each registrant you’d need to look at all the other registries—in the nation. Multiple registrations, such as those for Faye Buis-Ewing, make it possible for a voter not only to vote for a presidential candidate more than once, but also to vote for several senators and representatives, and ballot propositions and initiatives in several states, and so on. They can do this by means of absentee and provisional ballots.

Because the voter registries are corrupted, you’d have to do what the registrars should have done in the first place: You’d have to register everybody—again. And this will be one very difficult chore, as so many states operate on the honor system. For example, to vote in America one must be a citizen; but only one state, Arizona, requires proof of citizenship to register. So you’ll need to go well beyond the “trust but [don’t] verify” standards of the states to determine if a registrant is a foreign student, a foreign tourist, a foreign jihadist, or just your garden-variety illegal alien.

So you’ll need to contact the registrants. This happened to me here in Missouri when the Jackson County Board of Election Commissioners, pursuant to the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, asked for the last four digits of my social security number (despite my regular voting in the same precinct for 10 years). The 4 digits were to be used to triangulate with other info, such as name. But since you’re trying to detect all fraud, the better route is to get the registrants’ full social security numbers and then look them up on the social security administration’s database, where you’ll find birth dates, as well.

And why must you go through all this rigmarole? It’s those iffy registries. The voter registries can’t be trusted because the registrars are forbidden to ask for the documents that would confirm a registrant’s U.S. citizenship. (Sí, Se Puede, indeed.)

Even when you’ve identified the legitimate registrations, you’ll still have lots of work ahead of you. For it isn’t registrations that do the electing, it’s ballots. So you’ll be moving on to the next phase of your project: an examination of the elections for which the registries were created. (Are we having fun yet?)

If more ballots had been cast than there were registrants, anyone could infer that fraud has occurred. You, however, are armed with your corrected voter registries, and are thereby able to detect which unlawful registrations were used to vote. So you’ll examine the “signature rosters” to see if someone signed in using one of the unlawful registrations you identified. Your corrected registries allow you to quantify voter fraud. But how voter fraudsters affected the vote counts would be quite beyond anyone’s capabilities. This is because of another snag: There's nothing on the ballots to link them to the voters who cast them. Consequently, the vote counts can’t be corrected.

(NOTE: To protect the integrity of the vote counts, voter fraud must be detected when the voter is checking in at the polls, before he’s given a ballot. To apprehend unlawful voters, we must catch them in the act (in flagrante delicto), or not catch them at all. The means by which we can catch them is the registry. Which means the vetting of registrants must be completed by Election Day. Afterwards is too late. So if we’re really serious about nabbing voter fraudsters, Election Day becomes one giant nationwide dragnet or sting operation, rather than the spirited celebration of Freedom it was meant to be.)

But it’s not only registrants and voters who commit election fraud; poll workers and other election functionaries can commit it, as well. So it wouldn’t be enough to just examine the tallies and signature rosters after elections, you’d need to be an election observer, too, so you could check out any hanky-panky on the part of election officials. Which means you’d be conducting your fraud detection right alongside the poll workers conducting the election, bringing into play the observer effect (not to be confused with the Uncertainty Principle). Also, if there were a recount, you’d need to observe that, too. But would the authorities allow such intrusions into their elections?

There are 3 types of election fraud: registration fraud, voter fraud, and other. This last phase of your project—observing elections and recounts—falls under type 3, and it is murky and does not lend itself to definitive answers. Unlike registration and voting, where there’s a surefire means to establish eligibility and detect fraud—if only the government would use it—shenanigans by poll workers can go undetected. Because you verified the registrants earlier in your project, you will be able to verify those mysterious ballots found in the trunk of a car. But will you be able to prove that some poll worker created them? We’re not expecting you to prove a negative, so we can’t expect you to completely resolve the question of poll worker and recount fraud. But this is an arena of election fraud, so try you must.

Since election law is a state matter and procedures and hardware vary from state to state, you would need to conduct your election fraud detection project in all 50 states.

So far we’ve only been talking about “regular voters”, those who trek to the polls on Election Day to vote. But after vetting Election Day voting, you would enter a new phase of your project; vetting what is perhaps the biggest factor in voter fraud: the absentee and provisional ballots. You’d also need to “scrub” the registries for those who had died or become otherwise ineligible after the cut-off date when the registrars stopped taking applications, and see if those registrations had been used to vote. And then there’s always the possibility of a recount, which could go on for weeks and involve whole armies of “counters”. But Inauguration Day is fast approaching and we need to get this election decided—so if you could just step aside while we count these votes, thank you.

The above is only a taste of what your project would entail. And notice that we don’t really get into the logistics and the nitty-gritty of how any of the above tasks would be accomplished. We’ll leave that to you.

Now, given the enormity of your project, do you think you’d be able to complete it? Would you even be willing to undertake it?

Debates about how much election fraud occurred in this or that election are just so much jibber-jabber. It’s all speculation, as silly as trying to divine the intent of a voter from a dimpled, hanging or pregnant chad. And it’s a national embarrassment. If the amount of fraud is anything other than zero, then it is uncertain, indeterminate. Given our current systems, the exact size of election fraud is unknowable. So if we don’t know how much fraud was perpetrated, then we don’t know what the correct vote counts were, either. And in contests like Minnesota’s still-undecided 2008 race for U.S. Senate, any fraud at all can swing an election.

If the detection and quantification of election fraud isn’t doable with our current systems, then what we should be trying to do in These United States is create systems that will make election fraud as impossible to commit as we can. That, or give up on Democracy.

(This writer has tried to devise systems that would make it far harder to commit election fraud. You can read about them HERE, HERE and HERE.)

Jon N. Hall is a mainframe programmer/analyst from Kansas City.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Votes: Accounting for the Counting

By Jon N. Hall

Of all the problematic American elections in recent years, the 2004 gubernatorial election in the state of Washington is the clear winner in the fraud category.

What makes that election stand out is not just that it was probably stolen, but rather the volume and sheer audacity of its irregularities. The loser, Dino Rossi, won 2 of the 3 vote counts, and won the count with the widest margin, 261. But no one knows what the lawful correct vote count was, nor can anyone demonstrate it.

That, however, can be said of just about every American election ever held. So, why can’t we know the correct vote counts in our elections? Here are the 2 main reasons:

Reason #2: There is no “linkage” between the voter and his ballot. Which is to say, there is nothing ON a ballot to tie it to the voter who cast it.

Now, folks will say that’s the way it has to be because of the right to a “secret ballot”. OK, but what that means for our elections is: The vote counts aren’t correctible.

The lack of “linkage” between voter and ballot means that when an election official knows that an unlawful registration has been used to cast a ballot, he cannot then identify that fraudulent ballot so that he can subtract its votes from the vote totals. What he will most likely do is just let the election stand, warts and all, even though the votes of legitimate voters will have been canceled out by the fraudulent votes.

Some pooh-pooh the idea that voter fraud is a problem in America. But in contests with exceedingly close margins, like that 2004 election in Washington, any fraud at all can tip the outcome. Take Unity, New Hampshire, where Obama and Clinton each received 107 votes. If you can’t back out the fraudulent ballots, then you can’t know the correct vote counts. And therefore in close elections you can’t know the winner.

So what we have here is a head-on collision of 2 fundamental rights: The right to a secret ballot versus the right to a fair election, where only legitimate votes are counted. For me, the interest of fair elections trumps the right to a secret ballot.

However, if “linkage” cannot pass constitutional muster, then it is incumbent upon Congress to make fraud as close to impossible to commit as they possibly can. If we aren’t going to be able to back out fraud that has been committed, then we must do everything we can to prevent fraud from happening in the first place. Which means we must fix the “front end” of our election systems. And that brings us to the other reason why we can’t know what the correct vote counts are:

Reason #1: America’s voter registries are unreliable.

But no registry on this earth can be totally correct—at least not for long. That’s because eligible voters become ineligible—they die, slip into comas, become felons, become incapacitated, etc. The finalization of a voter registry doesn’t stop any of this.

So there is always a “lag” between changes in eligibility and when those changes get reflected in a voter registry. The “lag” means that even at the moment of its finalization, a registry can already be out of date, as changes that have already happened may not yet have been reported. Even if a registry were online and could be updated during the voting on Election Day, it would still be impossible to keep up with the march of change.

Bottom line: Regardless of how carefully engineered a voter registry might be, almost invariably there will be more folks on it than there should be.

Of course, after an election we could “scrub” the registries to account for changes in eligibility. For instance, an election official could read the obituaries and create a list of recent deaths. Then he could look at the signature rosters to see if anyone had signed in using the registrations of those recent decedents. That would allow him to detect fraud, but it would do nothing about correcting the vote counts. To adjust the vote counts—perhaps changing the winners—would require the aforementioned “linkage”.

But, if the Constitution forbids “linkage”—forbids us, say, to put a unique identifier on the voter’s ballot and his signature roster entry—then I’m afraid this situation where we can’t back out fraudulent votes and correct the counts is going to persist.

So far, we’ve only been considering the voter fraud that comes to light because of public announcements, such things as deaths and felony convictions. (Again, if “linkage” were allowed we could fix this type of fraud.) But there is a 2nd category of voter fraud that we wouldn’t be able to fix even if we had “linkage”, and that’s because we wouldn’t even know it’s happened.

This undetectable fraud is due to people who should never have been registered—but were. If, say, a foreign student or an illegal alien manages to get on a voter registry and then actually votes, the chances are it’ll never be detected. Unlike the 1st type where we have a tip-off from public notices, we must go looking for the 2nd type of fraud. And that would be one monumental chore, as you’d need to vet each and every voter, essentially re-registering them. And this is all due to the failure of registrars to fully vet registrants. (Currently, only one state, Arizona, requires proof of citizenship to register.)

Since the 2nd type of voter fraud is undetectable, the extent of it is unknowable.

This sorry state of affairs is why fixing our voter registries should be the first order of business in any serious election reform.

Recently, representatives of ACORN—the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now—have downplayed the significance of the problems in their registration drives. They say it’s only a registration problem, NOT actual voter fraud. But once an ineligible gets on a voter registry, the game is up—all the ineligible need do is show his ID and off to the voting booth he goes. Mail-in voting can be even simpler.

Voter registries are the gateway to voting. Fix voter registries, and whole species of voter fraud become extinct.

The good news is: We have the means to fix voter registration so that the 2nd type of voter fraud can’t happen. That is, we have the means to keep those who aren’t eligible OFF our voter registries. (I’m talking about those who register fraudulently, not those whose registrations should have been purged, like decedents.) Also, we can easily ensure that citizens aren’t doubly registered. All we have to do is adopt my plan. Its features:
  • ALL eligible U.S. citizens will be registered
  • ONLY U.S. citizens will be registered
  • Each U.S. citizen will be registered in ONE state only
  • Automatic registration—citizens needn’t do anything to be registered
  • Voting won’t require a photo ID
  • The maintenance of voter registries will entail much less work

If I do say so myself, my method of establishing voter registries may be the cleanest, quickest, cheapest and most correct method out there. And not only that, it puts the voter registration arm of ACORN and similar outfits out of business.

Nonetheless, there may well be resistance to it. Not from the voters, they’ll love it, but from the professionals. I’m talking about the little empires of the secretaries of state and the election boards. My plan won’t make them obsolete, but it will diminish their duties. They will no longer be in charge of maintaining the registries. Instead, they will receive a pristine new registry before each election. The professionals would, however, retain the responsibility for purging those who had become ineligible. But with fewer duties, they’ll be able to devote more time to that chore.

You can read my plan HERE.

Jon N. Hall is a mainframe programmer/analyst from Kansas City.