Eight States Will Vote Paperless in 2020 Despite Security Risks

Despite a downtick in number of states using paperless voting equipment since 2016, eight states are still expected to use paperless machines in the 2020 election, according to an Aug. 13 Brennan Center for Justice report.

The report said that in 2020 about 12 percent of Americans, or around 16 million people, will vote on paperless machines, which will not record how those individuals voted. The eight states that will maintain paperless machines include Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, and New Jersey.

These findings indicate a decrease in voting using paperless voting machines from 2016, where “approximately 27.5 million voters cast their ballots” – about 20 percent of Americans – in 14 states. Virginia, Delaware, and Arkansas have discontinued use of the machines since 2016, and Georgia, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania are scheduled to replace all paperless machines by 2020.

The report, however, flagged the security and election integrity threats that remain with paperless voting across the remaining states.

“Experts have long warned that these machines are a security risk because they do not allow election officials or the public to confirm electronic vote totals,” the report states.

Paper-based systems, the report adds, “provide better security because they create a paper record that voters can review before casting their ballot,” and election officials can review the records while conducting audits after elections.

The report also citing a July Senate intelligence committee report that said “‘paper ballots and optical scanners are the least vulnerable to cyber-attack.’”

22 states and the District of Columbia currently have verifiable paper records for all votes cast and require audits for those records before they certify election results. Two more states – Georgia and Pennsylvania – will join this list by November 2020, totaling 295 electoral votes.

“The remaining 26 states, totaling 243 electoral votes, do not currently require post-election audits of all votes prior to certification,” the report states.

The Brennan Center for Justice supported the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and National Academy of Sciences in their stance supporting replacement of antiquated voting equipment – particularly paperless machines – and that both increasing cybersecurity support for local election jurisdictions and upgrading voter registration databases are critical to maintain secure elections.

Last year, Congress provided $380 million to states to help upgrade election systems, but the Brennan Center for Justice argued that it was not enough.

In November 2018, 34 percent of all local election jurisdictions used voting machines that were at least 10 years old as their primary polling place equipment. The report states that “experts agree that systems over a decade old are more likely to need to be replaced for security and reliability reasons.”

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