Welcome to the Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity!
The Mission of the Institute
The mission of The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity is to support American Democracy by increasing voter trust and voter participation in American Elections. It is clear to many that using paper ballots, as opposed to electronic voting machines, has already contributed to more voter trust and participation in elections. In December 2012 we expanded our mission to include supporting recount processes and we endeavor to shape how recounts are done in California to truly support democracy and enhance voter and candidate trust.
Another effort we support is the introduction of the Trachtenberg Election Verification System (TEVS) to interested counties and districts nationwide. TEVS can be used to recount ballots very economically using an open source counting system. Carolyn Crnich, the Humbolt County registrar of voters, uses this system regularly to count votes twice before certifying. She has never had a recount request since she started using TEVS. Her use of this system has definitely enhanced voter trust and participation dramatically in her county. In addition, her system does not cost more than doing a 1% manual tally, a tally required here in California. Details on just how economical the TEVS process is are discussed later.
Hand counting paper ballots at the precinct level would probably be the strongest way to support our democracy. Although this process could also be subject to mistakes and fraud, because it would be at the precinct level mistakes or possible fraud would be minimized. Additionally, having many people involved at the precinct level would contribute to greater citizen participation and hopefully to expanded feelings of community. The Institute is not directly involved in promoting this at this time, but is supportive of it.
Our Most Recent Focus as of December 2012 was support the Recount of Prop. 37, the California Proposition to Label Genetically Modified Foods
It was brought to our attention by three statisticians and two election integrity consultants that there were significant election anomalies in the vote count of Proposition 37, the California proposition that lost by a narrow margin in the November 2012 Election. The Institute decided to help organize and fundraise for a recount of this proposition in select counties in California. More than one statistical method is being used to choose the counties. In January 2013, after considerable attention to this matter, the Institute determined that a recount would not be successful and has stopped the effort.
Our Second Award for Registrars: The Fair Recount Award for Registrars Supporting Fair and Economical Recounts
Our first awards to registrars were given in 2010 for Excellence in Supporting Election Transparency and Election Integrity. The awards were given to Carolyn Crnich and Freddie Oakley and Tom Stannionis for their use of the Trachtenberg system. A second reward for supporting election transparency and election integrity will be given in 2013. Excellence in maintaining a good chain of custody of ballots will be an additional criterion for this award in 2013.
Additionally, in 2013 the Institute will be giving a new award to a registrar or registrars for excellence in supporting democracy through maintaining a fair and economical recount process. Our executive director, Lori Grace, has met many a candidate who lost an election and could not afford to verify the election count and therefore walked away from our political process discouraged and, sometimes, in great debt. This does not support a vital, thriving democracy. Both our regular award, which honors transparency and election integrity and our new award will be presented in the later part of 2013.
In addition to a system that supports fair recounts, we would also like to see the repeal of Citizens United and expansion of public financing of campaigns as still other ways to help create more democracy in our country.
How the TEVS system Supports Enhancing Voter Trust and Voter Participation
An independent election verification system enhances voter trust and contributes to belief in American Democracy in several ways. One way is simply that the votes are counted twice. Secondly, the votes are counted in such a way that the ballots can be viewed by all. Transparency always contributes to trust no matter what the human endeavor. An independent election verification system that is also open source is not corporate-controlled and is available for viewing by all.
The introduction of the election verification system that the Institute is currently choosing to support, the Trachtenberg Election Verification System (TEVS), is managed currently by Sunrise Center, a nonprofit organization which maintains offices in both California and Hawaii. The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity is a subdivision of Sunrise Center. Because it is nonprofit there is no way in which the Institute or Sunrise Center would not let citizens observe how their ballots were counted by the TEVS system. Additionally TEVS is also open source. Some funding is currently available for counties and municipalities both inside and outside of California whose registrars would like to try using the TEVS system as a pilot project.
Supporting Democracy in America by Enhancing Transparency in American Elections
When voting machine companies insist that citizens cannot examine the vote-counting software of electronic voting machines, trust among American citizens and within their democracy is reduced. The same goes for candidates who have run for office and lost, especially the ones who cannot afford the recount. Voting machine companies and some registrars hide behind the fact that in America voting machine software is proprietary. Some registrars even go so far as to call ballots private documents. Resistance to becoming transparent in these situations badly hurts American democracy. We at the Institute are hoping to educate citizens to become more aware of the extreme importance of transparency in elections and to find ways of integrating it into our voting process. We recognize that smart phone voting and internet voting would mean the death of election transparency and election integrity in our country. We intend to join with other election integrity organizations in educating people to resist this trend in America in any ways possible.
It is interesting to note that in Germany and in Ireland transparency in elections is considered a human right. It would be wonderful if that became a right of citizens in the United States as well. The Institute is fully committed to expanding transparency in any way that we can here in the United States.