Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres last month directed that, going forward, all voting machines purchased in the state must employ “a voter-verifiable paper ballot or paper record of votes cast.” This was great news. It will help ensure the accuracy of vote-counting in Pennsylvania and give voters more confidence in election results. It was long overdue. The two key words in the directive are “verifiable” and “paper,” neither of which apply to how the vast majority of Pennsylvanians have been voting since 2006. Currently, 83 percent of Pennsylvania voters use direct-recording electronic systems, or DREs — voting machines that produce no paper ballot for voters to verify before leaving their polling places and that therefore leave no paper trail to follow if election results are contested. DREs are computer systems. Have you ever had your computer crash? Have you ever heard of computer systems being hacked?
The secretary’s directive comes on the heels of warnings from leaders of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia already is trying to influence our elections, as it did in 2016. It also is likely that Russia will again probe our voting systems. NBC has reported that intelligence officials believe Russia penetrated the websites or voter registration systems of seven states prior to the 2016 election.
We must protect our democracy, which depends on public trust in the way we choose our leaders. All voters must be confident that their votes and only legitimate votes are counted.
Voter-marked paper records help safeguard the accuracy of voting results in the event of a hack or software failure. They make it possible to conduct post-election audits and recounts to verify machine records. Paperless DRE results cannot be verified, which is why the Pennsylvania Department of State must never recertify DRE machines.