Nearly a year after the 2016 presidential election, many Americans have been forced, some for the very first time, to look critically at their voting protections, and recognize that US balloting systems are not nearly as impregnable as they once thought. Clearly, the US intelligence reports about Russia hacks provided a long-overdue wake up call for this issue. The good news: some progress has been made in some jurisdictions in the last year. The bad news: that progress hasn’t been as widespread or comprehensive as the problem would seem to demand. “I think we’re moving in the right direction,” said Larry Norden, of NYU’s nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. “I’m heartened by the fact that, for instance, we’re seeing, in both House and Congress, bipartisan proposals to invest in increased election system security.” … Election consultant Pam Smith agreed that there has “definitely [been] a pattern towards more secure elections” across the country. Some states appear to be ahead of the game. Virginia, for example, recently earned praise for decertifying all its touchscreen, paperless Direct Record Electronic (DRE) voting machines ahead of the termination date required by its own legislation.
Other states are still playing catch-up. After hackers breached Kennesaw State’s Center for Election Systems, which houses Georgia’s voter rolls, creates its ballots and tests its voting machines, Smith said Georgia was subject to “a lot of pressure to not wait until their voting system is literally unusable.” Now, she says, “it seems clear” that the state’s shift to paper is inevitable.
Smith also indicated that Delaware could be on the same path. And as paper-based voting becomes more normalized, “there may even be a ‘shame’ factor for battleground states that long resisted this trend,” said Maryland-based election activist Mary Kiraly. She points to Georgia and Pennsylvania as examples.
Still, Barbara Simons, president of the activist group Verified Voting, said the fact that any state remains entirely paperless is “just embarrassing,” let alone five (Georgia, New Jersey, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Delaware). Simons described another eight, including Pennsylvania — a key battleground in the 2016 election — as “partially paperless.” She estimates 80% of Pennsylvania’s voters still use hackable paperless systems.