The goals of election observation are enhanced public confidence in the efficiency and integrity of the election process, and more efficient election operations. Any voting system — whether an optical scan paper ballot system, a Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) system, or something else — has to function for the duration of the voting process, and election observers are trained to spot situations in which malfunctions, power outages, lengthy-set up times or other problems prevent voters from casting their votes, discourage them from doing do so, or cause votes already cast to be lost. Election observers look at how voting machines protect against malfunctions, whether election officials can easily repair basic problems, and whether officials have been trained to deal with problems that arise during the voting process. This means that one way to improve the reliability of voting systems in the United States is to have election officials work more closely with election observers.
This article discusses three ways to help achieve that goal — providing guidance to election officials to ensure that all voting systems are observable; improving observer understanding of voting systems; and utilizing observers to evaluate (and improve) voting system reliability. Taken together, these steps would improve coordination between observers and election officials and give the latter useful feedback on how their systems are working and how to fix flaws in them.
As with any electoral process, an integral part of voting system assessment is transparency, which is crucial to verifying (and assuring the integrity of) the electoral process and building public confidence.
Just observing voters and officials operating electronic voting and counting technologies is not meaningful. Observers need additional access to be confident that an election is proceeding properly. They can’t interfere in the process, but they should have full access to documentation about the system, including certification and testing reports. And observers should not have to sign non-disclosure agreements to gain access to documentation or observe processes — that jeopardizes their ability to report what they find, and contradicts the whole goal of transparency.
Full Article: electionlineWeekly.