Election Integrity In 2018 and Beyond

Our elections can be secured before 2018, using existing systems and randomized checks on the process. It’s a simple fix, if not altogether easy.

Collusion, hacking, suppression, vote manipulation, gerrymandering, microtargeting, database theft, spearphishing attacks on election officials in multiple states.

All of these accusations have been leveled about the 2016 election. Each one would be a scandal in and of itself, requiring a lengthy investigation, mountains of data for statisticians to pore over and translate into evidence. Once a crime has been committed, and ample evidence exists, justice steps in. But justice takes time, and it does nothing to address the issue of vulnerability. It’s possible the full truth of this moment will only be known by historians after years of study. Or that the full facts are already known by some, but will remain classified.

There seems to be a consensus among intelligence officials that:

  • Russia meddled in our elections in 2016 and perhaps earlier, using ‘active measures.’
  • They show no signs of stopping.

Taken a step further, Russia has proven to other opportunists that US elections can be hacked.
And even if we deal with Russian interference and put a complete stop to it, others are sure to try.

But we need some things fixed RIGHT NOW.

Our election process must be priority #1 for immediate action. Elections are the foundation on which our government rests. If that foundation is cracked, or made from substandard materials, all that it supports will eventually fail. Our election process might be vulnerable.

We can’t stop the scandals. But we can very simply block intrusions into our elections.

And the fix is a simple one. Not easy, but simple, and possible to implement before the 2018 midterms.

In four steps:

1)Paper ballot. Verifiable at the time of voting, by the voter. Scanned or machine-counted or hand-counted, doesn’t matter. Most importantly: the paper ballots are saved for at least a year. Securely stored.

2)Random audits, hand-counts and recounts. A random selection of precincts are named, after polls close, for hand-counting. Anyone conspiring to hack the vote wouldn’t know in advance if their precinct would be hand-counted. Mathematically select the percentage of precincts for hand-counts that would make fraud detection highly likely.

2a)Hand-counts and recounts are performed by people selected using the same system as is used for jury duty. This is already in place, randomized, and has appropriate forms for people who need to opt-out, etc. No need to reinvent the wheel. Additionally, it selects w/o regard for party. Those who volunteer for recounts might have a vested interest in an outcome. Those who serve as part of their civic duty may, or may not, be political.

3)A helpline for people who have problems on Election Day with voter registration, who are turned away at polls, etc. Run by Homeland Security or the FEC, with the aim of compiling data on areas of voter supression. Additionally, precincts with a statistically larger than normal amount of provisional ballots will be audited. And, to make sure no one’s tempted to mess with these systems:

4)Severe federal penalties for any person or business interfering in the election process.

This in no way interferes with local administration of elections. It merely adds on a layer of randomized checks, to whichever process/machines/precinct boundaries a local election board chooses. If Homeland Security pays for the paper ballots and mandates it, at least as a stopgap in 2018, we can then work more methodically on election policies, knowing that we can be measured and thoughtful creating long-term solutions, and be sure that voters are protected in the meantime.

And for people who think the Russia story is a ‘hoax’, the above solution should still be a desirable option. You would choose a strong password and 2-factor authentication for your banking information, whether or not you thought your bank had been hacked in the past. In the same way, the future security of our elections deserves nonpartisan protection.

Heartfelt Discussion of the Healthcare/Tax Cut Legislation

When ordinary people speak out, it resonates in a place pundits can’t touch. It reminds us all that passing laws is more than just an intellectual pursuit, or a philosophical argument, or a thorny accounting problem. Our hearts are a part of the equation we rarely witness in the media. This segment of The Last Word on MSNBC opened up the heart of health care in the US.

It reminded me of Jimmy Kimmel’s frank speech about the painful reality of watching loved ones suffer through health problems, and the emotional toll it takes on families.

Food for thought.

Public Comment Open for Trump EPA Regulations Rollback

With only 20 days left, the Federal Register website has logged only 19,000 comments.

In February, President Trump signed an executive order asking federal agencies to look at regulations that could be rescinded or repealed. This was the executive order that stated for each new regulation, two should be repealed.

As part of the process, the Environmental Protection Agency is asking the public to weigh in. The public comment period is open until May 15, 2017. Comments can be made here.

Most of the comments support the EPA’s results and mission since its inception in 1970, and many said we need stronger regulations to protect the environment.

The public comment section lists 2,888 comments. When there are mass emails, or very similar, scripted appeals, the Agency will sometimes post a representative sample, rather than the entire group of comments/letters. The majority of comments are full of concern about our environment and the effects of climate change.

One anonymous commenter wrote:

“We need more environmental protections and regulations. As someone who lives near Lake Michigan, I am very concerned that any roll back of regulations will adversely affect the Great Lakes region. It is undeniable that the climate is changing and there is excessive proof that this is due to human behavior. Please allow the EPA to continue to regulate and monitor how we interact with the environment. It is well worth short term economic loss (if necessary) in order to preserve long term environmental benefits. Thank you.”

Congressman Tim Walberg, a Republican from Michigan’s 7th District, wrote:

Rolling back environmental regulations is the worse possible thing a government can do other than starting an unnecessary war. The EPA regulations are the only thing keeping greed from harming our air, water and land. This rollback is a shortsighted plan to exploit the earth for corporate gain. The environment shouldn’t be reduced to a partisan issue. Having a clean country should a something all Americans are proud of but instead, it’s been used as a political tool. In the 80s President Reagan was a big environmentalist and President H.W. Bush was as well. Why now is the Republican establishment against the environment? This rule stinks of greedy corporate influence, creating this rule means they are bought and paid for.”

Another anonymous commenter wrote:

“EPA regulations should be expanded, not reduced. The life of our planet is at stake, not to mention our health. Allowing people and corporations to pollute at will is not in the best interests of either.”

If you have questions about the commenting process, you can contact Sarah Rees, Director, Office of Regulatory Policy and Management, Office of Policy, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Mail Code 1803A, Washington, DC 20460, Phone: (202) 564-1986; Laws-Regs@epa.gov.

Federalist Paper No. 51

Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature


By James Madison


To the People of the State of New York:

TO WHAT expedient, then, shall we finally resort, for maintaining in practice the necessary partition of power among the several departments, as laid down in the Constitution? The only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so contriving the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places. Without presuming to undertake a full development of this important idea, I will hazard a few general observations, which may perhaps place it in a clearer light, and enable us to form a more correct judgment of the principles and structure of the government planned by the convention. In order to lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others. Were this principle rigorously adhered to, it would require that all the appointments for the supreme executive, legislative, and judiciary magistracies should be drawn from the same fountain of authority, the people, through channels having no communication whatever with one another. Perhaps such a plan of constructing the several departments would be less difficult in practice than it may in contemplation appear. Some difficulties, however, and some additional expense would attend the execution of it. Some deviations, therefore, from the principle must be admitted. In the constitution of the judiciary department in particular, it might be inexpedient to insist rigorously on the principle: first, because peculiar qualifications being essential in the members, the primary consideration ought to be to select that mode of choice which best secures these qualifications; secondly, because the permanent tenure by which the appointments are held in that department, must soon destroy all sense of dependence on the authority conferring them. It is equally evident, that the members of each department should be as little dependent as possible on those of the others, for the emoluments annexed to their offices. Were the executive magistrate, or the judges, not independent of the legislature in this particular, their independence in every other would be merely nominal. But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.


It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly

Federalist Paper No. 1

To the People of the State of New York:

AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.

This idea will add the inducements of philanthropy to those of patriotism, to heighten the solicitude which all considerate and good men must feel for the event. Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, unperplexed and unbiased by considerations not connected with the public good. But this is a thing more ardently to be wished than seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations affects too many particular interests, innovates upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects foreign to its merits, and of views, passions and prejudices little favorable to the discovery of truth.

Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new Constitution will have to encounter may readily be distinguished the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power, emolument, and consequence of the offices they hold under the State establishments; and the perverted ambition of another class of men, who will either hope to aggrandize themselves by the confusions of their country, or will flatter themselves with fairer prospects of elevation from the subdivision of the empire into several partial confederacies than from its union under one government.

It is not, however, my design to dwell upon observations of this nature. I am well aware that it would be disingenuous to resolve indiscriminately the opposition of any set of men (merely because their situations might subject them to suspicion) into interested or ambitious views.