For those of you old enough to remember the Banana Boat Song, the tallyman tallied bananas. Here in Florida and in Georgia, we still await the tallyman to tally all the ballots, and it appears that there are many untallied at this time according to a Reuters article titled “Recounts, runoffs loom over high-profile elections in Florida and Georgia“.
This is not a political statement so please do not turn the page. This is a post about technology and process. From the technology side there are electronic voting systems in place, but not all votes are collected in digital form, and not all votes are deemed acceptable so they are treated as provisional in that someone – a human – must validate the ballot and then submit for counting which is typically after the actual election day. This is a process related issue requiring human intervention that could take even more time based on the level of confirmation required to validate the ballot.
Back to the ballot. Many States now use the old fill-in-the-bubble approach rather than the punch out ballot that caused the hanging chad here in Florida in a previous election. So, now we fill in the bubble on a paper ballot for the candidate of our choice. The ballot is then scanned using recognition technology to record the result.The reaosn for the paper ballot is one of humans having a physical object to reference and review in times of recount or question regarding the selections made.
Then there is online voting as Business Insider highlighted in their article titled “25 states allow some voters to submit their ballots electronically – here’s how that works“. The largest number of states using this approach will accept either email or fax, this is followed by fax only, online portals allowed by 4 states, and West Virginia allows use of a mobile app using blockchain technology as part of their security measures to protect the ballots.
In My View
The current method of voting and tallying those votes, while considered to be stable and proven, is still a major challenge and point of contention for candidates, voters, and the officials charged with formalizing election results. Announcements are made based on projections that are not the true count, as the true count cannot be truly known until well after election day, in some cases. (One must account for the provisional ballots and mail-in ballots that are not tallied until election day or beyond.)
While there are some legitimate concerns over the security of electronic voting systems, I see West Virginia as the leader in trying to break the paper chain mentality of “Paper is the way and only way voting is legitimate” to a more updated, secure, and auditable method using technology. Is blockchain the answer? Not entirely. There are additional ways to ensure voter validation, like the use of fingerprint recognition along with ID and Dual Password requirements.
My point here is simply that there are better ways to approach voting in the United States that will provide immediate, accurate results, auditability, validation, and security. The first obstacle to overcome is human reluctance. Will it be infallible? I do not believe any system is, but I do believe it would be a better step forward than where we are today and the tallyman could be more efficient and accurate.
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Bob Larrivee is President and Founder of Bob Larrivee Consultancy, a recognized expert in the application of advanced technologies and process improvement, and Journalist on Information Technology for Document Strategy. In his career, Bob has led many projects and authored hundreds of eBooks, Industry Reports, Blogs, Articles, and Infographics. In addition, he has served as host and guest Subject Matter Expert on a wide variety of Webinars, Podcasts, Virtual Events, and lectured at in-person seminars and conferences around the globe.