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Negligent treatment of elections should be a fireable offense
What happened in Mercer County during the 2022 midterm elections is unforgivable
Nowadays, when there is apprehension over election integrity across the political spectrum, it is unforgivable that people entrusted with the integrity of our elections are criminally negligent about their jobs.
I am a software engineer. There is not a single large-scale computer system these days that relies on a single technology vendor for it's primary function. For example, since 2011 I've been building software that runs on top of Amazon Web Services. My users, however, don't know and don't care, nor should they. After all, they signed up to use my software, not Amazon.
So if my software fails for my users, I don't get the luxury of telling them that it was Amazon's fault if one of their cloud services failed. It is irrelevant. I decided to use Amazon Web Services. It is my software that failed my users.
As a software engineer and a poll worker, it makes me particularly angry at what happened in Mercer County during the 2022 general election cycle:
The prosecutor, Angelo Onofri, told the Mercer County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Monday night that the investigation by his office found that the Election Day issue was a "miscommunication between Dominion Voting Systems and Royal Printing."
Dominion, the voting machine manufacturer, deferred comment to a section on its website called "setting the record straight." In Mercer County, the company said, "Dominion tabulators functioned exactly as they should in accordance with certification; there were no machine' malfunctions.'"
Royal, the company that prints the ballots, on the other hand said, "This was not a printing or miscommunication error. It was a programming error."
Oh, I see.
Mercer County Board of Commissioners says it was a miscommunication between Dominion and Royal Printing. Dominion says their machines worked marvelously, and Royal blames it on the programmers. In the end, no one is responsible: surely it can't be Mercer County Board of Elections who, in theory, is "responsible for the administration of elections."
When no one is held responsible, nothing will get fixed. Someone must be held accountable.
There seems to be a general lack of understanding in the New Jersey government that elections are mission-critical services. Though all the votes were counted, in the end, it is the trust in the integrity of the elections that suffered. Whenever there is even the slightest room for doubt, misinformation and conspiracies spread.
In 2021, when new electronic poll books were introduced for the first time, the state neglected to test internet connectivity at polling locations resulting in long lines, delays, voter frustration, and an opportunity for Jack Ciatarelli to sue and spread conspiracies. In 2021, I wrote:
Vote by mail, and early voting ballots must be counted as they come in. Computer systems used for tracking ballots must be up-to-date. All electronic equipment at the polling locations must be perfect and fully tested on-site. There should be no glitches that give any candidate an excuse to besmirch our elections.
Luckily, the issues with electronic poll books have been fixed since 2021. What happened in Mercer County during the 2022 midterm elections is unforgivable. The state and the counties need to fire the negligent and hire the responsible. They need to attract competent technology professionals with the experience and attention to detail required to deliver mission-critical user-facing services. Most importantly, stop shifting the blame on vendors and programmers.