U.S. election officials responsible for managing more than a dozen close races this November share a fear: Outdated voting machines in their districts could undermine confidence in election results that will determine which party controls the U.S. Congress. In 14 of the 40 most competitive races, Americans will cast ballots on voting machines that do not provide a paper trail to audit voters’ intentions if a close election is questioned, according to a Reuters analysis of data from six states and the Verified Voting Foundation, a non-political group concerned about verifiable elections. These include races in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas, Florida, Kansas and Kentucky. Nationwide, of 435 congressional seats up for grabs, 144 are in districts where some or all voters will not have access to machines using paper records, the analysis shows. While something could go wrong in any of those districts, it is in the close elections where a miscount or a perception of a miscount matters most.
Most of the dozen-plus state and local election officials interviewed by Reuters said they worry about bad actors hacking the older electronic voting machines to alter ballots, and then being unable to verify the results because there will be no paper trail. But the officials worry most about voters losing trust in elections, because officials would not be able to visibly demonstrate that the tally was indeed accurate.
“Voter confidence is a really big thing, and it’s the battle I worry about losing,” said Pennsylvania’s elections commissioner, Jonathan Marks. His state has four of the country’s most hotly contested elections – all of them in counties that use the older machines.