I guess the first time I ever heard the term “quality control” was when I was in the 7th grade or there abouts. Considering I was born in 1947, that was almost a lifetime ago, literally. That means, statistically, I should die just about any time now. Most men do not live much past their seventieth birthday.
Speaking of statistics, which some of us have difficulty saying; it is a science that, when applied to quality control, provide a very effective way of providing a good quality product without having to test each and every one.
I am not going to pretend to be an expert in statistics. However, I do know a little bit about them. In today’s world, it is difficult to avoid them, even while watching TV. Consider the nature show I saw. They caught several fish, tagged them and let them go. After a while, they caught several more fish and let them go. By determining how many of the fish they caught the second time that were tagged, they were able to determine how many fish were in the lake.
They explained it all and it made sense to me, though I still had my doubts. I’m not sure they took into account all the variables. None the less, they said they were accurate within a few percentage points.
On assembly lines, there are fewer variables and the stats are far more indicative. By pulling a small number of samples off the line at various points and checking them, the statistician can tell just how much of a problem the assembly line might have, that is, within certain limits.
Nowadays, it is a science that is practiced in just about all industries. If the CEO of Ford wants to know how many cars do not meet the specs, he asks quality control and they can tell him, likely within a few percent. This is despite the fact that quality control does not look at all the cars. Naturally, the more they sample, the more accurate they are. However, they can be very with very small random samples.
It really makes me wonder why we don’t use random sampling for voting. It can be done. Banks have test accounts to make sure that all accounts are treated properly. Random deposits and withdrawals are made and then verified. If the numbers are wrong, the bank knows they have a problem to fix. Mostly, it is a confidence test. The numbers are rarely, rarely wrong.
At the very least a simple test should be made after all elections for quality control. A certain number of the voters should be verified, not to determine who they voted for, but if they even exist. That is to say, someone would go to the address of a voter and ask two simple questions. Does this person live at this address and did he or she vote? The answers would go into a database and the statisticians could determine how many votes were legal and how many were not. The results should be posted to the legislatures and to the pubic. What is done with the numbers is up to them.
There is a little more active method. Special quality control ballots could be entered into the system at irregular intervals. The machines would not count the votes but they would be recorded. This would verify the machinery and the system itself. Those in charge of the quality control would know how it should turn out and would know there was a problem if it was wrong.
None of this would be perfect. However, if there was a big problem, we could be alerted. Moreover, if there is no problem, we would have just a little more confidence in the system. In itself, this would be a good thing. Doubting elections can lead to problems.
I don’t think any of this will happen, though. The FOCs have no desire for us to find the problems… the ones we can see without the quality control. They certainly don’t want the facts backed up with proof.