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Friday, December 9, 2016

Can The Papal Election Be Hacked? Not Likely: They Use Publicly Hand-Counted Paper Ballots

Can The Papal Election Be Hacked? Not Likely: They Use Publicly Hand-Counted Paper Ballots

Originally posted at The Brad Blog

With another papal election coming up, one might wonder how the papal elections, since 1059 or so, have managed to remain secure and unchallenged.

As security technologist Bruce Schneier details at CNN, the trick is what we have long referred to here as “Democracy’s Gold Standard”: publicly hand-counted paper ballots.

Here at The BRAD BLOG we’ve been calling for the same thing for U.S. elections for some time. Granted, it hasn’t been 1,000 years, it’s only beginning to feel like it. We were even recently immortalized for that effort.

Schneier’s breakdown of the voting process at papal enclaves is absolutely fascinating, particularly as the process they’ve developed over centuries mirrors much of what the process would look like if our nation ditched its secret, oft-failed, easily manipulated, unoverseeable vote-tallying computers and modeled our tabulation process on the open, public, and very rarely challenged process used by the citizens in some 40 percent of New Hampshire towns. It’s almost identical, in many ways, to the one used to select new popes.

As Schneier notes, when a new pope is elected, “Every step of the election process is observed by everyone.”

“The ballot is entirely paper-based,” he explains, “and all ballot counting is done by hand. Votes are secret, but everything else is open”

Talk about your “Holy See“?! It’s hand-counted PAPAL ballots!

“Nine election officials are randomly selected from the cardinals: three ‘scrutineers,’ who count the votes; three ‘revisers,’ who verify the results of the scrutineers; and three ‘infirmarii,’ who collect the votes from those too sick to be in the chapel.”

If that sounds remarkably familiar, then you may be one of the few who understand how “Democracy’s Gold Standard,” — publicly-overseen precinct-based hand-counting — actually works. While there are different techniques for it, one that is often used includes counting teams of four, with two people both agreeing on which candidate has been selected by the voter on each ballot (“scrutineers,” as they are known at the Vatican) and two others who write down the running count, with both agreeing that it has been recorded correctly (the “revisers”).

For papal elections, the entire counting process is transparent and happens immediately after all votes are cast, with all of the assembled Cardinals observing and authenticating the tally in the very same place where votes were cast, inside the Sistine Chapel.

In precinct-based hand-counted elections in the U.S., it all happens just after the close of polls at the very same precinct where the votes were cast, with the public, video cameras and representatives from all political parties observing and authenticating the tally as accurate. The results are publicly posted at the precinct before ballots are moved anywhere. They can also be verified for accuracy again later if there are any questions.

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