More than 15 million Americans in eight states will likely vote in 2020 on voting machines without any paper backup, despite calls from elections efforts for auditable paper trails in light of known efforts by foreign governments to tinker with U.S. elections.
A just released report from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice said voters in 48 percent of the country are in jurisdictions with contracts with two major vendors that still sell paperless voting machines. The two companies are Dominion Voting Systems, which covers about 37 percent of voters, and Hart InterCivic, whose machines are used by about 11 percent of voters.
The Brennan Center cited this summer’s U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on Russian interference in U.S. elections that recommended that states should, at a minimum, have voting systems that have a “voter-verified paper trail,” as well as statistically sound audits.
Earlier this year, the country’s largest voting machine company, Election Systems & Software, said it would stop selling machines without a paper audit trail, and the company has urged the rest of the industry to follow its lead.
“We believe that requiring a paper record for every voter would be a valuable step in securing America’s elections,” ES&S Spokeswoman Katina Granger told MIT Technology Review. About 44 percent of the country’s voters will vote on ES&S machines in 2020.
As of now, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky and New Jersey are set to use completely paperless voting systems next year.
The Brennan Center acknowledged there has been some progress on replacing the paperless machines, reporting that nearly half of states that had such voting systems in 2016 will have replaced them by 2020. Ohio, California and North Dakota are among those that have recently moved to replace old voting machines by early in the election year.
According to the Brennan Center report, much of the nation has moved away from completely electronic voting machines with no paper audit trail in the last several years. While 16 million voters will cast ballots on paperless machines next year, that number in 2016 was more than 27 million.
Money is a big issue. Last year, Congress provided $380 million to states to help with upgrades, a substantial sum but, the Brennan Center noted, “it wasn’t enough.”
They are not the only ones who feel that way.
“I don't know where, for instance, the state of New Jersey is going to get their money to update their systems,” Chris Krebs, the top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, said at a cybersecurity conference. “I don't know where some of these other states that have (paperless machines) without a paper trail associated with it — I don't know where they're going to get the money, but they need it.” (BRENNAN CENTER, MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW, CNN)