When voters in Virginia head to the polls this November, they’ll be casting their ballots the old-fashioned way. The state’s Board of Elections decided earlier this month to de-certify the widely used Direct-Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines ahead of the gubernatorial election – prompting counties and cities to replace their touchscreen machines with those that produce a paper trail. Virginia is not alone. Several states are now considering a return to old-fashioned paper ballots or a reinforced paper trail so results can be verified, amid concerns over hacking attempts in last year’s presidential race as well as longstanding cybersecurity worries about touchscreen machines. “Our No. 1 priority is to make sure that Virginia elections are carried out in a secure and fair manner,” James Alcorn, chairman of the State Board of Elections, said in a statement, calling the move “necessary to ensure the integrity of Virginia’s elections.”
The Virginia decision was linked in part to vulnerabilities exposed during a July 2017 hackathon. At the annual DefCon Conference in Las Vegas, hackers were able to breach the security of over 30 different types of voting machines. One hacker reportedly boasted of being able to breach the systems in as little as 90 minutes.
A chief concern with Virginia’s machines was that they leave no paper trail, making voting discrepancies nearly impossible to prove. Virginia was already planning to move away from the touchscreens, but will now accelerate the shift to optical-scan ballots, in which voters fill out a paper ballot to be deposited and recorded in an electronic system.