Voters in four competitive states will cast ballots in November on electronic machines that leave no paper trail — a lapse that threatens to sow distrust about a presidential election in which supporters of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have raised fears about hackers tampering with the outcome. The most glaring potential trouble spots include Pennsylvania, where the vast majority of counties still use ATM-style touchscreen voting machines without the paper backups that critics around the country began demanding more than a decade ago. It’s also a state where Trump and his supporters have warned that Democrats might “rig” the election to put Clinton in the White House, a claim they could use to attack her legitimacy if she wins. Similar paperless machines are used heavily in Georgia, where the presidential race appears unusually close, and to a much smaller extent in Virginia and Florida, both of which are phasing them out. Florida has almost entirely abandoned the electronic machines following a number of elections that raised red flags, including a close 2006 congressional race in which Democrats charged that as many as 16,000 votes went missing.
This time, in a year marked by charges that Russian-linked hackers have breached Democratic Party organizations and state election offices, the lack of a paper ballot record in key states poses two potential risks to public confidence in the U.S. electoral system: It creates the danger that someone could alter the results in ways that are nearly impossible to detect, security experts say, with no hard-copy record that would allow a manual recount. Beyond that, supporters of the losing candidate could simply refuse to accept the results — a response that Trump supporters are already encouraging if he loses.
… To determine how many competitive states relied on electronic voting machines without paper audit trails, POLITICO analyzed data from state election offices and the Verified Voting Project.
In Pennsylvania, one of this year’s top presidential battlegrounds, 50 of the state’s 67 counties exclusively use electronic voting machines without a “voter-verified” paper record, and an additional four use a combination of these machines and paper ballots, according to Verified Voting. Wanda Murren, the press secretary for Pennsylvania’s Department of State, declined to make any of the state’s election officials available for an interview to discuss how they verify their results. She later said could not answer questions submitted by POLITICO within the publication’s deadline.