Paper ballots may seem like an antiquated voting practice, but hacking fears are now pushing an increasing number of states toward a return to the basics. State legislatures and election directors are heeding warnings from Washington that hackers may tamper with electronic voting systems in the 2018 midterm elections. The U.S. intelligence community has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a campaign to interfere with the 2016 presidential election and that the Kremlin will try to do so again. On the national level, lawmakers have made several attempts to push legislation aiming to strengthen election cybersecurity through grants to upgrade equipment and to increase cooperation between the federal government and lower jurisdictions. So far, no such legislation has passed either chamber of Congress. Amid all this national attention, a number of states have started to act on their own bolster the integrity of elections they run. With these states, the focus has been on doing away with direct-recording electronic voting machines (DREs) that don’t produce a paper record.
Editorials: We can stop Russian election hackers in 2018 | Duncan Buell, Richard DeMillo and Candice Hoke/USA Today
The first ballots of the 2018 mid-term elections will soon be cast, but many Americans will exercise this constitutional right without much confidence that their votes will be fairly and securely counted. Partisanship in Congress and bureaucratic delays have left voting even more vulnerable to the attacks that top intelligence officials say will accelerate in 2018. Meanwhile, irrefutable evidence has revealed that Russia engaged in a multifaceted attack on the 2016 election through information warfare, and that hackers also scanned or penetrated state election infrastructure in ways that could lead to manipulation of voter registration data — and possibly change vote totals in 2018. We propose two stopgap measures that can be immediately implemented without waiting for funding or new legislation. Cybersecurity experts have repeatedly warned that none of our current voting technologies was designed to withstand the cyberattacks expected in the coming months. This national emergency calls for Americans to act immediately before the voters’ faith in democratic elections is severely undermined. Experts agree there’s time to contain major threats to this year’s elections, but we must rapidly convert from paperless touch-screen voting machines to paper ballots, and upgrade states’ and counties’ verification practices to conduct public post-election ballot audits before local election boards certify the 2018 elections. A post-election audit involves simply checking the computer-generated tabulations against paper ballots to be sure the machine hasn’t been compromised.
Pennsylvania’s tight congressional special election underscores the need for states to replace aging voting machines and use paper ballots as backups to ensure the integrity of vote counts ahead of pivotal November U.S. midterm elections, election security advocates said on Wednesday. Democrat Conor Lamb led Republican Rick Saccone by only a few hundred votes out of nearly 230,000 cast in the closely watched U.S. House of Representatives election on Tuesday in western Pennsylvania. With many states using antiquated voting machines and with concerns about potential interference in U.S. elections by Russia or other actors, there is rising concern among experts about the need to safeguard American balloting.
Georgia: Bill replacing Georgia voting machines on track for final votes | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia might have a new voting system with paper ballots in time for the 2020 presidential election, according to a bill that cleared the House Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday. The legislation, Senate Bill 403, would replace the state’s 16-year-old electronic voting machines with a system that creates a paper backup to ensure accuracy. “We want to have paper ballots that deliver for voters more confidence,” said state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth. “The public recognizes that the best-in-class technology for voting is a combination of technology with paper so that you have a verifiable, recountable, physically retallyable ballot.” The legislation is on track for a vote in the full House of Representatives after the committee approved it on a voice vote. If it passes there, it would return to the Senate for further consideration.
Russian hackers poked and prodded voting systems throughout the country during the election of 2016, failing to change votes or alter registration rolls but succeeding in pointing out where the United States is vulnerable. In just a few months, they’ll almost certainly be back again, and if not the Russians, then any one of a number of nations or groups hoping to sow discord and cause chaos around the signature event of our democracy. If they’re successful, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. The hackers mostly took aim at voter registration rolls, which because they are shared between computers and often undersecured are open to outside attack. By altering or deleting names on such lists, hackers could keep people from voting; on a wide scale, that would certainly cast a pall of distrust and anger over the system, and throw any results into question. There is some disagreement on how many states were targeted in these attacks, but the hackers were successful in compromising voter information in at least Illinois, where voter registration rolls were downloaded before the intrusion was detected.
Georgia: Plan to Scrap Vulnerable Voting Machines Moves to the House | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia lawmakers are preparing to ditch the state’s old and vulnerable electronic voting machines, but they haven’t fully committed to paper ballots that can’t be hacked. A bill to to replace all of Georgia’s 27,000 voting machines in time for the 2020 presidential election cleared the state Senate last week and is now pending in the House. Organizations seeking secure elections say they’re worried that Georgia could end up with an untrustworthy and expensive election system. The legislation has raised some concerns, including the lack of a requirement that manual recounts be conducted with paper ballots and the possibility that bar codes could be printed on the ballots. “Electronics make life easier, but they also can be manipulated,” said Sara Henderson, the executive director of Common Cause Georgia, a government accountability group. “We’re trying to get changes into the bill that will make paper the official ballot of record. “If we don’t have that language in there, we’ll have the same situation as we have now,” she said.
National: Trump floats idea to secure elections: ‘It’s always good to have a paper backup’ | Politico
President Donald Trump has one idea to blunt the impact of Russian meddling in U.S. elections: “It’s called paper.” “One of the things we’re learning is, it’s always good — It’s old-fashioned — but it’s always good to have a paper back-up system of voting,” the president said Tuesday during a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. “It’s called paper. Not highly complex computers, paper. A lot of states are doing that. They’re going to a paper back-up. And I think that’s a great idea. We’re studying it closely. Various agencies, including homeland security, are studying it very carefully.” Trump, who has acknowledged Russia meddled in the 2016 election but has said his team was not involved in the effort, has been adamant that Russia had “no impact” on votes. He told reporters Tuesday that other countries “probably” were involved in presidential-election meddling as well.
Four Erie County residents on Tuesday called on County Council to switch from electronic touch-screen voting machines to paper ballots to ensure the security and integrity of elections. Their comments come on the heals of last month’s directive by Gov. Tom Wolf ordering counties that plan to replace their electronic voting machines to replace them with machines that leave a paper trail. Wolf said the order would increase the security of voting and make elections easier to audit, according to the Associated Press. In November, federal officials identified Pennsylvania as one of at least 21 states that had its election system targeted by hackers before the 2016 presidential election, according to AP. “You don’t have a paper trail for each vote,” said Hugh McCartney of North East Township. ”…What are we going to do. I know two options: Either you pay up those millions of dollars or go back to paper ballots.”
Canada: Doug Ford calls for Ontario PC Party leadership voting to be extended, use of paper ballots | Global News
Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leadership candidate Doug Ford is calling on the party to extend voting by a week and for the ability for members to vote by paper ballot. “As of right now, close to 100,000 people have not received their PIN number — that’s staggering,” Ford told The Andrew Lawton Show on Global News Radio 980 CFPL Monday afternoon. “I’m calling on the party to make sure that they step up to the plate, and I’m calling the other candidates for them to step up to the plate, and let’s go to the paper ballot for those who haven’t been able to vote.”
Editorials: Replace Pennsylvania voting machines right now | Marian Schneider and Wilfred Codrington/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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?