How do I know that my vote was counted?

  • Can American citizens verify that their vote was tallied correctly in the public/published results that determine an election?

    More generally, do there exist any systems that can simultaneously guarantee anonymity while still providing some assurance that one's vote is actually tallied in the final election results?

    `More generally, is there any way to verify that election results actually reflect the votes that were cast?` The idea is that electoral votes are **secret** (and you should be thankful of that). How are you supposed to know *which* is your vote? The integrity of the system is checked by independent supervision from representatives of the political parties (and maybe independents) of the recounting process.

    The actual method of voting varies depending on where you are in the country. At least with paper voting, you are typically present as the vote is deposited, and in the case of a recount, all votes would have a record. Though as SJuan76 points out, it's not directly tied to you directly.

    @SJuan76 Secrecy mitigates some problems, but is not the only consideration when it comes to voter/election fraud. I'm asking what verification the *public* for cast votes - individual or en total - this is quite different than the supervision of a(n unelected) recount committee.

    In my country, polling stations are managed by a) people chosen at random and b) people apointed by the parties disputing the election and c) almost anybody who ask to. While c) are rare, a) is mandatory and b) almost always complete, so to commit fraud you need both random citizens and your political opponents representatives to agree (if you think that is workable in any meaningful scale, you are being rather optimistic). And the votes themselves are stored to allow recount (although, if there is fraud, one would assume they would do it right and send the votes that match the listings)

    Spain... but there is no need to look that far, because even the California Electoral Law (the first state I chose at random) seems to do just the same; the only difference it that does not specify that members of group a) should be chosen at random (but allows both b) and c))(

    @SJuan `How are you supposed to know which is your vote?` Voter identification like fingerprint is enough to know which is your vote.

    @SJuan76 I don't know if it's in use anywhere, but it's certainly possible to design such a system which protects election secrecy. To make it useful you have to accept the fact that who has voted at all to be public. What one then could do is to accept a "secret key" on the ballot. By publishing who has voted and the content of each ballot (including the secret key) one could verify: 1) that your ballot is there and that the vote is as intended, 2) that the number of votes is equals the number of voters, 3) that the vote count is correct given the ballots.

    trust in your political system?

    Exit polls sort of do this statistically on an aggregate level; I'm not sure if the question is asking about the body of voters being confident that the tally was correct, or if the question is can one specific voter can know if their specific vote was correct.

    Australian ballots allow candidates to appoint scrutineers to be present in the counting rooms to observe the physical manipulation of ballots and their counts by Electoral Commission employees. An electoral commission employee or scrutineer could thereby identify their ballot by distinctive hand writing and observe if it was counted or not. Correspondingly in Senate elections they could ID a unique preference flow on their multimember preferential electorate.

    In Washington state, and I presume many others, you can verify that your ballot was received, that it was accepted and that it was counted... all online. But the site will not show you HOW it was counted.

  • anon01

    anon01 Correct answer

    5 years ago

    An accurate answer to this question is not as obvious as some answers have suggested.

    The narrowest answer to the title question: in nearly all elections in the U.S., there exists no way of directly verifying that published election results are an accurate reflection of the tallied votes. At least one local election in the United States has utilized a method of post-election ballot verification, although this remains uncommon.

    Speaking to the more general question "are there methods for vote verification that do not violate voter privacy?": Yes, such voting systems do exist, and are an active topic of study by information theorists and cryptologists.

    The widespread notion that "verifiable voting systems necessarily compromise the fidelity of a secret ballot, therefore increasing the risk of vote buying, voter intimidation/coercion" is a misconception that does not hold under closer inspection. Although a secret ballot is a simple method to reduce these sources of election fraud, it is not the only alternative to a public ballot (in which all information is known by all parties, before and after voting has taken place.)

    Consider a simple example to convince yourself that transparency does not necessitate identifying voters with votes:

    1. At the ballot, you are given a slip of paper with a randomly generated ballot ID/token

    2. You cast your ballot at your polling place, which is recorded in association with the random ballot ID (not your identity)

    3. A full list of ballot IDs and votes are published publicly, (again, with no association to your identity).

    4. With your (private) knowledge of your ballot ID, you can now verify that your vote Was tallied correctly on the publicly visible registry.

    5. Your friends, who have also done the same, can also verify that their ballot was correctly tallied on the public registry, increasing your confidence that the public registry is a truthful representation of the total election results.

    Systems like this example exist now, developed with open source code.

    Other more complex schemes exist as well, that also increase transparency without sacrifice of voter anonymity - such as blockchain (most widely known for its use in Bitcoin). Blockchain based platforms are currently being developed to support such anonymous verifiable voting applications, as well as stand-alone blockchain based voting projects.

    TLDR: For the vast majority of elections in the U.S., as with the majority of elections worldwide, there is currently no good way to determine whether or not "your vote was counted". It is, however, untrue that transparency/verifiability is fundamentally at odds with voter privacy/anonymity; voting systems that integrate both of these features are beginning to be developed and may be adopted more widely in future elections.

    Your proposed system still allows the mob to "encourage" you to show your ballot ID, allowing them to check whether you voted the way they told you to.

    @Sjoerd I have provided a toy example for brevity; there are ways to prevent that issue. For example, your ballot ID could be digitally displayed in the booth, for you to record at your leisure; the vote buyer in this case has scarcely better evidence that it was your ballot ID than if you simply "promised to vote" for a given candidate. There are many more details *not* addressed here - think of the example as a sketch to motivate that a verifiable and anonymous voting system is possible in principle.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM