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Mullin writes: "Right now, the U.S. Senate is debating an issue that's critical to our democratic future: secure elections."

Voting in Ohio. (photo: David Goldman/AP)
Voting in Ohio. (photo: David Goldman/AP)

If It Doesn't Have Paper Backups and Automatic Audits, It's Not an Election Security Bill

By Joe Mullin, Electronic Frontier Foundation

27 August 18


ight now, the U.S. Senate is debating an issue that’s critical to our democratic future: secure elections. Hacking attacks were used to try to undermine the 2016 U.S. election, and in recent years, elections in Latin America and Ukraine were also subject to cyber attacks.

It only makes sense to harden the security of U.S. voting machines, which are perhaps the most direct route to impacting an election’s results. But the current bill that’s advancing in the Senate, the Secure Elections Act, is no solution at all. If it isn’t strengthened dramatically, senators should vote against this deeply flawed bill.

The best solution to stop a possible hack of voting machines is clear: all machines must use a paper trail that’s regularly audited. Many states with voting machines already use paper, but more than a dozen are using at least some machines that provide no paper trail. In five states—New Jersey, Delaware, South Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana—not a single jurisdiction has a paper trail.

As important as they are, paper trails only work if they’re checked. As we’ve said since the aftermath of the 2016 election, we not only need elections to be auditable, we need them to be audited.

Currently, U.S. elections are usually audited only when they are extremely close or in other unusual situations. There is a cheap and effective way to audit all of our elections, using a system that statisticians call “risk-limiting audits.” By hand-verifying a small number of randomly chosen ballots, election officials can check, with a high degree of certainty, that the election results were recorded properly. Because they don’t involve massive statewide recounts, such audits can and should be performed after each election. Election audits should be like an annual checkup, not like a visit to the emergency room.

The current bill moving ahead in the Senate, S. 2593, falls far short. The bill once included both of these measures, but following amendments, now has neither. It isn’t a mystery how to get this done. A competing bill introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden would mandate both risk-limiting audits and a verifiable paper trail, and has gained three more cosponsors since S. 2593 has been watered down.

Secure and verifiable voting isn’t optional. Tell the Senate to either pass a strong bill or oppose the Secure Elections Act. your social media marketing partner


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+31 # Macserp 2018-08-27 13:42
Frankly I don't know why states persist in using electronic balloting.
The paper version has worked just fine.
Unless of course we don't really want something that works well and is accountable.

Hmmmm........let's see...who might benefit from elections that weren't verifiable..... or where the votes from large portions of the electorate don't get counted?
-6 # Robbee 2018-08-27 15:38
Quoting Macserp:
Frankly I don't know why states persist in using electronic balloting.
The paper version has worked just fine.
Unless of course we don't really want something that works well and is accountable.

Hmmmm........let's see...who might benefit from elections that weren't verifiable.....or where the votes from large portions of the electorate don't get counted?

- using electronic balloting. is asking for trouble?

proponents of using electronic balloting were never poddy-trained?

they want shit everywhere!
+3 # futhark 2018-08-27 17:20
The justification for electronic voting has always been the rapidity with which the election results can be attained. There will continue to be pressure for this as long as the voters think that knowing the results of the election rapidly is more important than knowing it accurately.
+32 # Working Class 2018-08-27 13:51
It would seem the very least US citizens should expect is a paper trail being preserved for our elections. It is telling that reports say the White House and certain members of the US Senate and House are opposed to passing a law that assures election results can be verified. Generally I am against litmus tests in politics because single issue politics is too simplistic in what is suppose to be a democracy. Having said that, in this case if an official is against a paper trail for how votes are cast - we don't want them in office.
+12 # Blackjack 2018-08-27 13:53
Once again, my state of current residence is at the bottom of the list of things we should strive to be first in! Maybe my two senators could help on that front, but I won't hold my breath. They're both too busy trying to get Kavanaugh confirmed.
+2 # angryspittle 2018-08-27 14:50
Screw all these damned machines. The only way to trust any electoral outcome is to go to paper ballots marked with approved devices counted by hand at the precinct level by election officials in public verified by poll watchers from both parties as well as an independent certified sealed and sent to the next level and not to be opened except in case of a recount.
0 # Robbee 2018-08-27 15:32
as far as they confirmed to me, EFF only notified one of my 2 dem senators?

electronic frontier foundation of san fran ca? - i hope that grand lake guy has something to add, thanks!
+5 # 2018-08-27 17:06
These points are perfectly correct. Keep up the good work to make paper trails mandatory. This solution is comprehensive and inexpensive -- perhaps that is why so few people seem interested in implementing it.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
+1 # economagic 2018-08-28 19:12
Thanks Lee--that's one for you (not that you will read this).
+4 # John of Milpitas 2018-08-27 17:39
Just have everyone vote by mail. I can wait for the weeks it may take for the assurance of a more reliable tally.

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