Alan Ferdman | We Must Make All of Our Votes Count

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The United States of America has been the powerhouse of technical innovation and prosperity for many years past. During my lifetime, scientific advances originating in America have changed the world, and the way we live. 

From World War II’s Manhattan Project, through 1948 when Bell Labs engineers came up with the transistor, to the microprocessor’s evolution, and even the moon landing, the U.S. has shown a consistent desire to push the limits of what can be achieved. But through it all, as a country, our citizens have accepted the use of an antiquated election mechanism, making it cumbersome to vote, slow to obtain results, and ripe with opportunity for fraud. 

In 1969, the world watched in amazement as Neil Armstrong left the lunar module and took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” But today, the country and the world are watching the U.S. in amazement again, as they see TV screens showing hundreds of individuals, floundering in a sea of paper and scanners, trying to come up with the results of the 2020 general election. 

As an individual who spent an entire career in high-technology computer systems, given the opportunity, I might decide to outsource election operations to the banking and credit card industry. 

Consider this: As of 2018, there were 1.1 trillion credit card accounts and 360 million debit card accounts active in the United States. Yes, the number is greater than the total U.S. population of 328 million (2019), as most card holders have two, three, or more active accounts. 

Contrast those numbers with last Tuesday’s election statistics, where approximately 70 million ballots were cast, and you will realize it is a small number compared to the number of records businesses all around the country post every day, with consumers expecting the results to be available in minutes. 

Do you think for one moment, banks and credit card companies would hire armies of employees to scamper around scanning in millions of credit card receipts? Do you think their customers would find it acceptable to wait a week for a transaction to be posted, so they could balance your account? Do you think banks would trust all their clients to just tell them who they are and if they had an open account, even without including a way to verify it all being accurate? Of course, they would not. Yet that is how our current voting system works today. 

What all modern businesses have put in place are electronic systems, including information distributed on the internet, with results shown in what is basically real time. If you use online banking, you are already familiar with the concept. Multiple-level password protection keeps all but a few bad actors at bay. Plus, bank IT systems have implemented backup technologies, to not only keep the hackers out, but to also ensure natural or manmade disasters in one service area will not take the whole system down. 

Typically, four backup mirrored sites are established in different quadrants of the country, with each individual database instance simultaneously duplicated multiple times at each location. Backing up an IT system is not like backing up the data on your PC. These systems are normally made up of many individual applications interacting with each other. Timed backups of the resulting data in each system, along with backing up each individual transaction, allows every system to be rebuilt, even if the end data is lost.

In reality, I would never outsource our voting system. But just think about it. If we used the same technology as banks in compiling our voting information, problems with unauthorized voting, illegal multiple voting, and miscounting, would be minimized to a point of insignificance. Instead those in the position of decision-making have been moving in the opposite direction. Before the last election, L.A. County spent $300 million building a replacement system for the legacy ink-a-vote methodology. This new application expanded the scanning requirement from having to process one IBM card per voter to six to seven formatted pages 8.5 by 11 in size. A giant waste of money, which has only slowed the scanning and counting process. 

The only reason why it takes multiple days and sometimes weeks to find out the results of an election is our country’s use of antiquated voting methods. Much better technology exists today, which could provide a far more accurate final vote count and report, within at most an hour after the polls close.

Lastly, it does not matter who your favorite candidate is. If our voting system is perceived to be easily manipulated and corrupted, we will continue to have a major segment of the population feeling disenfranchised by the result. So, if you think the world is laughing at the United States today, I agree. They are probably saying, “Look at the U.S., the most technologically advanced society on the planet, and they cannot even bring themselves to use a modern, safe, fast, and accurate voting system.” 

Realize, the only people who can force change and improve our voting systems are YOU and I. For us to get a modern and upgraded voting process, we need to make our voices heard.

Alan Ferdman is a Santa Clarita resident and a member of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee board.

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