Chastened by Russian interference and hacking attempts in the 2016 election, academic experts on voting technology say electronic voting machines that don’t leave a paper trail should be phased out as soon as possible. “Every effort should be made to use human-readable paper ballots in the 2018 federal election,” the experts write in a report issued today by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. “All local, state and federal elections should be conducted using human-readable paper ballots by the 2020 presidential election.” That’s already the case for Washington, Oregon and Colorado, where mail-only voting has become the norm. (The report notes that “vote-by-mail” is something of a misnomer, since most ballots are still returned by hand. “Ballot delivery by mail” comes closer to the mark.)
Washington’s election officials have implemented the report’s top recommendation for mail-voting systems: giving voters an easy way to check whether their ballot has been sent, and where their returned ballot is in the system. The “MyVote” website links to online ballot trackers as well as voter registration information.
“We do all of those things in Washington state,” Erich Ebel, communications director for the Office of the Secretary of State, told GeekWire.
But in nearly a third of the counties across the U.S., voters submit their ballots on electronic voting machines — and election officials in other parts of the world have gone even further with e-voting. Estonia, for example, has offered a secure online voting system for more than a decade.
One of the top findings from today’s study is that electronic-only voting isn’t secure enough for U.S. elections, particularly in light of the Russian-backed hacking attempts reported in the wake of the 2016 election.