Quote #2: Those who vote decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.

Those who vote decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.

Joseph Stalin (1878-1953)***.

The triple asterisks (***) are there to emphasize that this quote was probably not from Stalin. The reasons abound, but most Cold War, Soviet and Stalinist researchers seem to be of the opinion that this was not one of his quotes — some of them didn't even know about the quote when first asked about it. The only >source that seems to confirm the quote's supposed origin is an unreliable memoir by one of Stalin's personal secretaries, Boris Bazhanov. Stalin's apex of power lasted from 1922 to 1952, and Bazhanov published his book in 1930 after having fled the Soviet Union in 1928, so he also didn't spend that much time with Stalin at the peak of his dictatorship. Anyway, here is what Stalin supposedly had said:

I regard it as completely unimportant who in the party will vote and how, but it is extremely important who will count the votes and how.

The context was voting inside the Soviet party, which renders more credibility to the quote than would have been expected from those who claim that Stalin couldn't have said anything like it simply because there were no — important — public elections in the Soviet Union.

At any rate, there were probably many other famous thinkers who could have first spelled out this obvious-yet-disregarded truth. One of the oldest ones is from Napoléon III (1808-1873), the nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821) and France's first president (1848-1852):

I care not who casts the votes of a nation, provided I can count them. (26 May, 1880)

Some other honorable mentions are:

  1. "As long as I count the Votes, what are you going to do about it? say?" — attributed to William M. “Boss” Tweed in Thomas Nast cartoon, October 7, 1871).
  2. "There’s more to an election than mere votin’, my boy, for as an eminent American once said: 'I care not who casts the votes of a nation if they’ll let me make the count.'" — from Uncle Henry, a novel by George Creel, 1922.
  3. "It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting, Archie says." — from Jumpers, a play by Tom Stoppard, 1972.
  4. "Indeed, you won the elections, but I won the count." — Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza (1896-1956), The Guardian (London), June 17, 1977.
Boss Tweed
The quote from William "Boss" Tweed can be seen right below the image of the overweight man ("Boss" Tweed) in the upper-left corner.

Most people seem to acknowledge that counting is extremely important; however, when it comes to doing something about making it more transparent, the media, the experts, the politicians and the overall population all end up sweeping the problem under the rug. This attitude can get so hypocritical and frightening, that people can literally walk into public spaces and hack voting machines however they want in the USA, as shown by a recent episode of John Oliver's Last Week Tonight. Some experts, fearing the scalability of hacks to electronic voting, even go as far as suggesting that we should go backwards, i.e. voting should be done manually, a method which has supposedly gone through many trials, and is very difficult and not scalable to hack — e.g. Tom Scott in this video for the Youtube channel Computerphile.

Those arguments all miss the important point: transparency. Regardless of which voting system we choose, if we guarantee that the voter can check that her vote has been correctly counted, voting is, thus, hack-proof. If we can't guarantee transparency, we will never know if any of our elections' results were true.

The crucial problem is then: how to confirm that the votes were counted correctly while still keeping them secret? Well, in the past, I've posted about a very simple way of doing this using standard asymmetric cryptography, which I later confirmed with two experts on the topic. To my surprise and disbelief, after asking them why, given its unbelievable transparency benefits, that was not being done anywhere, they all gave me laconic answers or discouraged me with infrastructure or logistical costs.

In the end, what I ask you is this: what is the price you would put on knowing the truth?

Quick Update: Recently, I found out that basically already exists and is currently under implementation all over the world. Its technical name is End-to-End Verifiable Voting Systems (with optional Homomorphic Encryption). It is explained in this Numberphile video from 2016, featuring Professor Ron Rivest, one of the creators of the widely used RSA encryption paradigm.


Young and Handsome Stalin?
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: Stalin was once young also. And, apparently, far from bad. Who would have thought this guy would later end up killing millions of comrades? The image in this post's thumbnail is to catch your attention to yet another of Stalin's unusual looks.