Wichita State University mathematician Beth Clarkson has seen enough odd patterns in some election returns that she thinks it’s time to check the accuracy of some Kansas voting machines. She’s finding out government officials don’t make such testing easy to do. When Clarkson initially decided to check the accuracy of voting machines, she thought the easy part would be getting the paper records produced by the machines, and the hard part would be conducting the audit. It’s turned out to be just the opposite. “I really did not expect to have a lot of problems getting these (records),” Clarkson said. But Sedgwick County election officials “refused to allow the computer records to be part of a recount. They said that wasn’t allowed.” Instead, Clarkson was told that in order to get the paper recordings of votes, she would have to go to court and fight for them. Earlier this year, Clarkson filed a lawsuit against the Sedgwick County Election Office and Kris Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state, asking for access to the paper records that voting machines record each time someone votes. The record does not identify the voter.
… The voting machines that Sedgwick County uses have a feature that most of the Direct Recording Electronic voting machines, or DREs, in Kansas and around the country do not have: a paper record of the votes known as Real Time Voting Machine Paper Tapes. Many counties and states opted not to have a paper record to save money, said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting Foundation, a nonprofit agency whose mission is to safeguard elections in the digital age. The DREs were introduced to American voters about 13 years ago to replace “hanging chad” ballots and lever voting machines following the 2000 presidential election showdown and ensuing controversy in Florida involving Al Gore and George W. Bush. But the DREs have a couple of major flaws, Smith said.
Because no paper records exist in most cases, voters and candidates cannot know whether the machines accurately recorded their votes, Smith said. That means for a candidate, no recount can ever be done of the votes recorded on those machines, Smith said. And voters can never be sure their votes were recorded correctly.
In addition the voting machine software is proprietary, and even election officials cannot examine it. “There is a cost for not knowing the results are right in each election,” Smith said. “In our view, it becomes kind of corrosive of voter confidence because over time you can never be sure.”