December 01, 2020

How a Vote Becomes a Vote: Schoolhouse Rock Edition

How does a vote become a vote? It’s like sausage being made but more ugly. So in Schoolhouse Rock fashion, let’s try:

Setting Expectations
The process of how your vote and your dead relative’s vote gets counted is a long and arduous path with many twists and turns, blind alleys, and black boxes hidden under layers of computer code with DNA that has been traced back to the Neanderthals.

A little known caveat is that vote totals, like polls, are recorded with a margin of error, meaning that up to 3% of votes are fraudulent or inaccurately recorded. This is okay and patriots will remember to “accept the results of election, even with the rounding error”.

The Infancy of Your Vote or Your Imaginary Vote
Popular folklore has it that vote is a binary choice, 1 or 0, a “yes” or “no”. However, we’ve learned that voting machine software is sophisticated enough to anticipate a future in which humanoid robots are allowed to vote and that their vote would count only a fraction of a human’s vote.  So you could call this very far-reaching and anticipatory software coding an impressive if uncommon feature in the programming world.

Your vote is ideally backed up by the “hard currency” (call it the gold standard) of a printed ballot. Not all states allow this and have something called “fiat electronic voting” where paper is not required. This is to save trees because the environment is far more important than election integrity.

But in a state like Georgia there is a paper trail.  And it all starts in a factory where the ballots are duly printed. These ballots are then stored and delivered to precincts by dedicated Democrat volunteers. These ballots are later moved in three-card monty fashion to precincts where your candidate of choice needs a bit of oomph. Call it political viagra. (Note: Facebook has determined this information is disputed.)

Arrival at the Voting Station
Next your average Joe goes to the voting booth and this is where it gets complicated. Your voting machine may or may not be hooked up to the internet. It may or may not have a sophisticated algorithm that allows votes to be padded as need be.  It may or may not assign your vote a fractional value, depending on the righteousness of your vote. But you make your choices and the machine does its thing, printing your selections and recording the votes automagically. The source code is closed and proprietary in order to help prevent people other than Dominion IT staff from manipulating votes.

Glitch-Time!
Then a “glitch” occurs, call it a water main break, toilet stopped up, server crash, or people just getting darn tired and needing a smoke break during vote-counting. It’s important though that Republican vote-watchers either leave the building or be moved a football field away.

Step up you dead people!  You have a golden opportunity now. Dedicated volunteers move unsupervised ballots that may lack a chain of custody and may have them filled out and entered in the machine. It’s important to sync printed ballots to electronic ones but fortunately the software has safeguards to ensure this. It has thought of almost everything.

Typos Happen
Finally your vote is counted and sent from the precinct to the the county clerk. Surprisingly, there seem to be actual humans typing in numbers such that typos can occur. In one Michigan county an election clerk reported that “all it was is there was an extra zero that got typed in.” What a country!

Mail-ins, Zombies, and Non-Residents, Oh No!
After the polls close in some states mail-in ballots are counted. These ballots may or may not be from living people, may or may not be from residents of the state, may or may not be filled in by eager-beaver volunteers who happened across a bunch of empty ballots (see lack a chain-of-custody), may or may not be filled in by machines that produce amazingly perfect black ovals in large groups as if you had a obsessive-compulsive collection of voters all coming in at the same time.

Finally: Network Statisticians Study the Entrails
Next the election desks at major news organizations ingest the data in nearly realtime fashion and declare a winner based on sophisticated modeling that takes into account past fraudulent voting patterns in order to predict a winner (to within 3%+- of course).

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