Delbert Hosemann is back at it, trying to convince the Mississippi Legislature that there is still much work to be done to bring Mississippi’s voting procedures into the 21st century while also taking steps to reduce the potential for fraud or dirty tricks. The secretary of state, now beginning his third term, did an admirable job implementing voter ID, an oversold and overemotional issue that distracted this state from addressing where its biggest problem with voter fraud lies — absentee ballots. Hosemann’s newest proposals don’t tackle absentee-ballot fraud head-on either, although his pitch for allowing voters to cast their ballots in person at the courthouse for up to 21 days before Election Day should reduce the number of absentee ballots cast overall. Still, if you are a candidate inclined to cheat, you’re going to use mail-in absentee ballots anyway, since the fraud becomes much harder to catch that way. Even with that said, though, allowing no-excuse early voting is a good idea that should, if nothing else, increase voter turnout. It certainly eliminates one of the main excuses of people who don’t get to the polls. … A glaring omission in what is otherwise a good package of proposals is Hosemann’s silence on a disturbing trend in this state to eliminate the paper trail on voting. More than three-fourths of the 77 counties in Mississippi with touch-screen voting machines have disconnected their external printers, by which voters could previously verify on paper that their vote has been accurately recorded.
The external printers are a critical safeguard against potential hacking into the machines or their malfunctioning. Removing the printers is an invitation to vote-stealing schemes or vote-disappearing disasters.
Not only should Mississippi require that the printers be reinstalled, but it should mandate regular random audits of the voting systems, as more than half of the states in the country do, to be certain that votes are being accurately and reliably recorded. Such an audit is impossible without a voter-verified paper component.
It may seem archaic in an age of electronic banking, distance learning and even online voter registration, but no one has yet invented a foolproof, completely paperless system of voting. Hosemann is being negligent in not addressing this.