Broken democracy


The implications behind today's big news that San Francisco has an unreliable voting system are mind-boggling. It's bad enough that it's going to take weeks of hand-counting ballots before we'll know the results -- not just after this November's snoozer election, but also after the high-stakes February and June contests. But consider the fact that the state has found that the San Francisco system doesn't count many ballots. Has that affected past elections? Did Sup. Ed Jew really win his squeaker of an election, or for that matter, did Gavin Newsom really beat Matt Gonzalez four years ago?
As the Chron story notes, the Board of Supervisors earlier this year elected not to switch from our current ES&S system to one made by Sequoia Voting Systems, mostly because they would allow an independent review of the computer coding, which is a valid concern. People have good reasons, and more all the time, to have no faith in this country's dysfunctional democracy. This is serious stuff, people. If we don't find a way to restore people's faith in the system, it isn't just trust and hope that will be lost. It could be the system itself.

UPDATE: After learning a bit more about this issue, it turns out that the scope of the city's problems in the past aren't as potentially far-reaching as the Secretary of State's action might indicate. Respected election reformer Steven Hill tells us this is a drastic action based largely on ES&S not being the most responsive corporation in the world, as he and the Guardian experienced during the implementation of ranked choice voting. But the potential for votes not being counted only concerns those cast at precincts by voters who don't use the provided pens and instead use their own with light ink. On absentee ballots where that's most likely to occur, they are already read on more sensitive machines that will count the votes. Anyway, look for next week's Guardian where we'll have more on this developing story.