When it comes to elections, there is only one acceptable standard: perfection.
Every person who has the right to vote must be accommodated. Every ballot must be properly prepared and easy to understand. Every vote must be counted quickly and accurately.
Realistically, that’s not going to happen. Elections are run by human beings with varying skills and training. There will be mistakes.
So while perfection in counting votes is the goal, the perfection that really matters is getting it right. The will of the people must be accurately reflected in every contest. The people and issues declared the winners must be those who actually received the most votes.
With that in mind, Pima County, in working with local political parties, has taken needed steps to make the upcoming general election as free of questions, doubts and problems as humanly possible.
One thing has not changed since the primary election: Vote counting will be slow. In the primary, near-final results were not released until 4 a.m. the day after the election. That’s likely to be the same situation after the Nov. 4 election.
The main procedural change that slowed the process was the insistence by Pima County Democrats and Libertarians that vote totals not be sent by modem from the county’s 417 precincts to the central computer system.
The parties maintain that results could be sent instead to a third party who could alter them and send them to the county computer – a scenario the county agrees is technically possible.
So instead, ballots and scanning equipment will be taken from polling places to one of 13 collection centers. From there, they will be taken to the main vote-counting center where information will be downloaded directly.
That presents other problems, with ballots and machines traveling around town in vehicles that could be in accidents. It also is the main factor in having final results available so much later than in other areas.
The county staffs its polling places with thousands of people who work only one day and must perform a complex job to a high level of accuracy. After the primary election and again after the general, the county grades each worker to see where there are problems.
Ballots and scanning equipment are transported in bags with tamper-proof seals. There are numerous other steps being taken to make the process as secure and accurate as possible.
There still are ways for things to go wrong. But unless something unexpected emerges, questions about Pima County’s election integrity are based on fears and suspicions, not on reasonable doubts.
We have confidence that vote results in Pima County next month will accurately reflect the will of the people. And ultimately, that’s what matters.