As key midterm elections approach, contests that could set off an enormous shift in Washington, D.C., U.S. authorities are taking measures to make sure they are secure and free of foreign influence. For years, a number of polling places have gone more high tech with electronic voting machines. Fears about vulnerabilities in the systems in an increasingly interconnected world, however, is now turning eyes to a strikingly original idea — paper ballots. The United States largely moved away from paper ballots after the 2004 Help America Vote Act replaced lever and punch-card voting machines with Direct Recording Electronic, or DRE, systems. The reform was a direct result of the notoriously contested 2000 presidential election, which triggered weeks of recounts and multiple complaints about the paper ballots in Florida.
With Russia’s purported interference in the 2016 vote, though, many election officials now believe the old way of doing things don’t look quite so bad anymore.
In May, the Senate intelligence committee issued a report that concluded Russian cyber actors surveilled about 20 state election systems with the intent of undermining confidence in the U.S. voting process two years ago.
The committee said many of the electronic voting systems are now outdated, and recommended all states go back to paper ballots — or, at the very least, mandate that electronic machines produce a paper hard copy that can be audited.