As this year’s midterm elections approach, the country is still unprepared for another Russian attack on the vote, and President Trump continues to send mixed signals — at best — about what he would do if the Kremlin launched an even more aggressive interference campaign than the one that roiled the 2016 presidential race. In last month’s omnibus spending bill, Congress set aside more than $300 million for states to invest in hardening their election infrastructure. They have a lot to do. New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks election technology and procedures nationwide, reports that most states are using electronic voting machines that are at least a decade old, many running antiquated software that may not be regularly updated for new security threats. Though most states recognize that they must replace obsolete machines, not much has changed since 2016.
In the last presidential election, 14 states used the worst of the worst — paperless electronic machines that leave behind no physical record of cast votes. Though these machines are not routinely connected to the Internet, NYU’s Lawrence Norden warns that there are nonetheless ways to infiltrate them, including through computers used to program the machines. Since 2016, only one state, Virginia, has phased out all of its paperless machines. Georgia lawmakers failed last month to pass a bill that would have upgraded the state’s voting machines. And though Pennsylvania is pushing upgrades, the transition will not finish until after November’s vote.
Having paper-friendly machines is hardly enough. Paper trails enable state officials to run statistically sound post-election audits of vote tallies. Yet only a handful of states require rigorous audits, with only a handful more considering them.