Having verifiable paper trails for votes has proven to be a useful tactic, officials from three states told senators Wednesday, but they said states still have a long way to go in securing elections. Secretaries of State Steve Simon of Minnesota, Jay Ashcroft of Missouri and Jim Condos of Vermont testified before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee about their security precautions going into this November’s midterm elections, and to lobby for more federal support for upgrading voting equipment and cybersecurity practices. States across the country have been scrambling to batten down how they conduct elections in the wake of intelligence officials’ reports that hackers linked to the Russian government attempted to penetrate the voting systems in 21 states during the 2016 presidential election. But states that are moving toward more paper trails of ballots and stronger security around voter files are going in the right direction, the secretaries of state said. “It’s very hard to hack paper,” Simon said.
Minnesota, which Simon called “proudly old-school,” uses paper ballots exclusively to conduct its elections. “It’s a huge advantage, especially post 2016. We see now many states that were once sold on a paperless future now realizing paper’s good after all.”
Simon’s line about digital actors being unable to reach a physical piece of paper echoes other officials’ calls to keep elections more analog, but the importance of a paper trail lasts after people are finished voting.
Condos, who is scheduled to become the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, reiterated the importance paper ballots in conducting post-election audits. In Vermont, state officials randomly select 5 percent of all voting districts and conduct a recount of every line on every ballot from that sampling. Condos said he is considering expanding the sample size to 8 percent.