U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has a warning for another country preparing for a presidential election: Use electronic voting machines at your own risk. At a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York late last month, Haley called on Congo to abandon its plan to use the machines for the first time in favor of paper ballots — what she called a “trusted, tested, transparent and easy-to-use voting method.” And earlier this year, she said: “These elections must be held by paper ballots so there is no question by the Congolese people about the results. The U.S. has no appetite to support an electronic voting system.” But the U.S. is still working to secure its own election infrastructure from the threat of foreign interference and cyberattacks — and though security experts and top federal officials here have also called on states to use machines with paper trails, it’s an uphill battle.
Still, the fact that Haley is touting the benefits of paper ballots in Congo’s election highlights how U.S. officials are adjusting their recommendations for election administration both at home and abroad.
“I am glad to see this consistent message and that it’s coming out there,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, an election technology expert who serves as chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology.
“It’s basically consensus of most election officials and all the technical community and anyone else that works in election administration . . . that we should use paper,” Hall said. Just last week, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen recommended that all U.S. states adopt “a physical paper trail and effective audits” by the 2020 election.