The vast majority of tech-savvy voters heading to the polls today across Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, are in for the shock of their lives: paper ballots. They’re not the kind of paper ballot that you fold in half and slip through a hole in a ballot box, but a semi-high-tech optical scan ballot that is first marked by the voter and then processed by the optical scanner to tabulate the votes. All of the states holding primaries Tuesday, with the exception of Delaware, use paper ballots or a combination of paper and electronic systems. This is the new reality facing elections in the United States. The most connected country in the world has connected so many devices that securing all of them—including the once highly touted electronic voting machine—is a near impossibility. Add to the security concerns real questions about transparency, reliability, and the ability to conduct fair and accurate recounts, and you have the makings for a mass move back to paper ballots. “Based on what I’m seeing and how slowly technology evolves in the elections world, we will still be on paper over the next five to 10 years,” said Matthew Davis, the chief information officer for the Virginia Department of Elections. Davis spoke to MeriTalk at the 2016 Akamai Government Forum in Washington, D.C.
… There was a time when paper ballots were as vilified as insecure electronic voting systems. The hanging chads of the 2000 presidential election in Florida gave rise to a nationwide call to modernize voting systems. The pendulum quickly swung in favor of electronic systems that would eliminate any doubt as to the intent of the voter. But that pendulum has swung back yet again, now in favor of ensuring there is a paper trail to verify the vote, said Davis.
“In a recount situation, having that verifiable ability to actually run the ballots through the machine again and get a new tally is really critical,” Davis said. “And in a touch-screen system…the only thing to do [in the event of a recount] was to go back and read the tape that printed off. So the only thing you were going to catch in a recount would be a transcription error or a missed machine. Whereas in a paper ballot location, there are physical ballots that can be reviewed or audited.”
Paper is also important to ensure that errors introduced by overworked poll workers don’t go unnoticed. “With election night results reporting, we’re dealing with individuals who have been working a 16-plus hour day, and other individuals at the election administration level who have been working 16-, 18-, or 20-hour days for weeks on end. So mistakes do happen as we start transcribing results over telephone calls and the various methods the 133 localities use to get that data back to our system,” Davis said.
Full Article: Why We Still Use Paper Ballots on Election Day.