Six states received the lowest grades for their abilities to accurately count election results based on their lack of access to paper ballots, according to a report released Wednesday by Common Cause, Rutgers Law School and the Verified Voting Foundation. The report — which studied election technology and administration in the 50 states and the District of Columbia — calls primarily for states to implement paper ballots in all counties in order to guard against system failures and other issues. The grading centered primarily on whether the state had paper trails in place. “The biggest problem is if those machines malfunction, there is no way to independently check,” Susannah Goodman, director of the voting integrity project at Common Cause said in a conference call with reporters. “What was the voters’ intent? You can’t do an audit.” The report showed that Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin were best when it came to catching voting problems, while Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina ranked at the bottom of the list. States were graded on whether their machines leave a paper trail, whether an audit is done of ballots, whether election officials check the vote count against the amount of voters who come to the polls, whether there are contingency plans in place in case of machine failure, and whether voting-by-mail is encouraged over online voting for military and overseas voters. Failure in the paper ballot category led to failure for states in the audit category, given the need for paper ballots to conduct the audit. “For states that don’t have paper ballots or records, it knocks them down,” Goodman said.
Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have paper trail machines in place statewide. Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia were cited as not having paper trail machines in place statewide. Some of the states, however, include counties that use paper machines. States that have hybrid systems in place — with some counties having paper trail machines while others rely on paperless machines — receive lower grades.