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Protect Our Election Integrity

February 6, 2018

Protect America’s Election Integrity


America's approach to elections has changed dramatically since 2000, when butterfly ballots and hanging chads threw a presidential election into chaos. In 2002, Congress appropriated billions of dollars to help states replace outdated voting systems.


Unfortunately, much of this money was used to buy paperless touchscreen voting machines. These seemed like the wave of the future, but computer security experts found them to be seriously inadequate.


"In every single case, when a machine was brought into the lab and studied by qualified researchers, the result was the discovery of significant vulnerabilities that could allow the machines to be compromised with malicious software that could potentially steal votes," Halderman told Ars.

So Halderman says that, over the last decade, "the thinking has shifted to looking at more practical solutions." In particular, election security experts have come to regard optical-scanned paper ballots as the gold standard for computer security.

Optical-scan ballots can be counted by machine to provide prompt and accurate vote totals. But if there's any doubt about the integrity of the results, there's always an option to do a hand recount of the paper ballots.


The Lankford bill would enshrine this thinking into federal law. "Funds received under a grant under this section may not be used for any voting system that records each vote in electronic storage unless the system is an optical scanner that reads paper ballots," the bill says.


The legislation sets up a nationwide process to identify these machines and phase them out. States wanting money would need to submit a list of current machines that don't use paper ballots and a plan for replacing those machines. The states would then get grant money that could only be used for replacing those machines.


Mindful of state prerogatives over election administration, the bill doesn't go as far as banning the use of paperless machines. States would be free to continue using them if they wanted to. But the legislation would give state election administrators a powerful shove toward better voting systems—and it's likely that many states would take the hint and the money.


Some states already do post-election audits, but even here Halderman argues there's room for improvements. States can maximize the effectiveness of these audits and minimize costs by varying the size of each recount based on the victory margin.


Most important, the statistical rigor of these recounts would provide a powerful deterrent to anyone thinking about tampering with American elections, since the probability of tampering going undetected would be very low.


-Timothy B. Lee


You can read the full article here: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/01/new-bill-could-finally-get-rid-of-paperless-voting-machines/ 



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