Green Party Presidential Nominee Jill Stein’s recent requests for recounts in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin highlight how few states routinely verify the accuracy of their vote counts: Twenty-two states do not require a post-election audit, and 15 states do not require paper records that could be compared against electronic vote tallies in a recount. With roughly 22.5 percent of registered voters living in election districts with paperless ballots, the pressure to audit vote counts is mounting. Modern electronic machines are susceptible to tampering, casting doubt on the security of the machines and the certainty of their final vote counts. Following the 2000 presidential election and the resulting legal challenges in Florida over inaccurate counts of votes cast on paper ballots, Congress distributed more than $3 billion to replace manual voting equipment with modern electronic machines. At the time, “there was a feeling among some election officials and state legislatures that it’d be best to avoid paper going forward,” said Larry Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. Instead, states opted for “computerized voting machines that just told you what the totals were and you wouldn’t have to deal with the messy process of trying to figure out voter intent.” But as it’s become clear that without a paper record there’s no way to verify vote tallies, computer scientists and election activists have begun pushing for states to not only keep a paper record but to also institute routine post-election audits. Since 2004, many states passed a law requiring audits.
In some cases, it’s taken a crisis to convince state officials that an auditable paper trail is necessary.
In 2004, a statewide race for North Carolina agriculture commissioner came down to about 2,300 votes. More than 4,000 votes were lost during the early voting period when a single voting machine received more votes than its storage would allow. Without a paper trail, there was no way to know if the lost votes would have changed the outcome of the election. To avoid the situation going forward, the legislature mandated paper records and routine post-election audits in each county.
Lack of funding is the main reason some states don’t have paper audits, said Pam Smith with Verified Voting, an organization that advocates for legislation and regulation that promotes the verifiability of elections. Shortly after the 2000 presidential election, many states were able to make use of federal grants to update their equipment with a verifiable paper record. But once that money dried up, some state and local jurisdictions couldn’t add paper ballots — and that also meant no meaningful audits.
Full Article: Votes Miscounted? Your State May Not Be Able to Find Out..