Since the adoption of electronic voting machines in the 1990s, election experts have argued that paper records are critical for auditing elections and detecting potential tampering with vote tallies. The issue gained new prominence following the 2016 elections, which spurred multiple investigations into allegations of Russian interference in the electoral process. In a panel discussion hosted by Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP), experts examined the state of U.S. election security. The moderator Ed Felten, the Robert E. Kahn Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs and director of CITP, opened the discussion by noting that “Princeton has quite a bit of expertise in this area.” He cited two faculty members working in election technology and policy, Andrew Appel and Jonathan Mayer. Appel, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Computer Science, recently served as a member of the National Academies’ Committee on the Future of Voting, while Mayer, assistant professor of computer science and public affairs, recently developed bipartisan election security legislation as a staffer in the United States Senate. Also on the panel was Marian Schneider, a former Pennsylvania elections official and the president of Verified Voting, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve election security practices.
Surveying the landscape of voting technology around the country, Appel explained that 15 years ago about half the states were using paperless touchscreen voting systems. “We are now in a much better situation with respect to the technology itself in the voting booth,” he said.
… Schneider highlighted Verified Voting’s efforts to pilot auditing practices in partnership with election officials in Colorado; Orange County, California; and Fairfax, Virginia. The group’s broader goal is for officials around the country to learn from these pilot audits and begin adopting the practice in the coming years.
Felten said that administrators are often surprised by how inexpensive it can be to conduct a statistically sound audit of election results. The number of paper ballots that need to be audited by human inspection depends on the margin of victory and the total number of votes cast. For example, said Appel, about 600,000 ballots were cast in the June 2018 primary in Southern California’s Orange County, and auditing several hundred randomly chosen ballots cost $3,500.
Full Article: Experts assess voting security as midterm elections approach.