Fulton Town Clerk Connie Zimmerman was surely trying to boost people’s faith in the election system, but some of her comments last week about the town’s test of a new voting system called ElectionGuard had the opposite effect.
“I think because of all the bad press and the voter fraud that is supposedly happening out there, if we can curtail this and show that it can’t happen with this system, then that is a big plus,” Zimmerman told Gazette reporter Benjamin Pierce.
So far as we know, trust in the Rock County election system—and statewide, for that matter—is exceptionally high. Voter fraud is virtually nonexistent.
But just to double check, we reached out to both Zimmerman and Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson and asked them to clarify concerns about voter fraud. They were both emphatic: Voter fraud is not a problem in the town of Fulton. Voter fraud is not a problem in Rock County, either.
In other words, Microsoft’s ElectionGuard is a solution in search of a problem. Rather than increasing confidence in the election system, one of its major features would plant seeds of doubt.
ElectionGuard creates a code to allow voters to confirm after polls close where they voted, when they voted and whether their votes were counted. But since when have Rock County voters thought their votes didn’t count? For people who think poll workers are tossing their ballots in the garbage or that the Russians have taken over their polling site, ElectionGuard isn’t going to fix their paranoia.
On the contrary, ElectionGuard’s voting verification feature lends legitimacy to conspiracy theories about the integrity of the 2016 election. Lest anyone forget, a statewide recount of the 2016 results served to confirm the accuracy of the original count and went a long way to dismiss suggestions of voter fraud, which President Trump, without a shred of evidence, alleged was rampant.
One of the great features of the Wisconsin and national election systems are that they’re mostly decentralized, and some of the most trustworthy election systems are, in fact, the simplest.
Yes, Rock County needs to keep pace with changes in technology, but that doesn’t mean every technological innovation is good for elections.
We don’t claim to be computer programmers and cannot comment of the quality of the ElectionGuard software that would be tallying votes. There could be redeemable aspects of ElectionGuard, and, to the system’s credit, it does create a paper trail for verifying results.
But we take exception with the implication that Rock County needs this product or one like it to ensure the integrity of its elections.
Rock County voters have every reason to trust the current election equipment and the process used to count the ballots. County officials accurately tabulated the results in 2016, and we expect them to do the same in 2020.