Faced with increasingly convincing evidence that electronic voting systems can be hacked to alter election results, a majority of states are wisely moving to adopt voting methods that enhance security, in part by producing a paper ballot record that can be used to audit results. South Carolina should do the same. In fact, that’s the goal of the state Election Commission, if the Legislature will come up with $40 million to purchase the 13,000 new machines needed to serve every precinct in the state. The commission has attempted to get the Legislature’s attention for five years about the need to build up a fund to replace the existing machines. So far, legislators have demurred, awaiting the completion of new state standards for voting machine security. Those standards are expected to be completed in time for legislative review next year. Timely action will be needed if there is to be any chance to replace the 13-year-old touch-screen machines before the next general election in 2020.
The latest state to make that decision is Virginia, which last month decertified the remaining touch-screen voting machines that do not create a paper trail after computer experts demonstrated how easily those particular machines could be hacked from afar.
Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia now require a paper trail for their elections, using a variety of methods, including paper ballots, punch cards, and touch-screen machines that also produce a printed ballot. Virginia recently joined this group.
Just five states, including South Carolina, still exclusively use voting machines that do not produce a paper trail. In all, according to Reuters, some 44 million voters, one fourth of all eligible voters in the United States, were registered in jurisdictions without a paper audit trail in 2016.