Americans deserve secure and fair elections and caucuses as they choose their elected representatives. Last night a new app that was introduced to help report Iowa caucus results failed. The new app – which Nevada had been planning to use for its caucuses later this month – was intended to help the precinct chairs record the results from each round of voting and aggregate the results. But no results were delivered because the app failed in numerous ways.
The silver lining is that Iowa did not scrap paper ballots altogether, after nearly doing away with them, and the results are on paper. Today, using these paper ballots, the results are being reconstituted.
The lesson is clear. Anything run on a computer can be hacked or can fail due to a “glitch.” This includes the computers in tablets, smart phones, ballot scanners, and vote counting devices. That is why there must be paper ballots for every vote cast to actually check the election results – as is happening in Iowa today with a full hand recount. That is also why states should stop allow voting by email or through internet portals. If there is a glitch – all the ballots are digital and there are no paper backups that voters have reviewed.
The good news in this country is that only 8 states – New Jersey, Indiana, Louisiana, Texas, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee – now have paperless systems that can’t be audited and recounted if necessary. All of the so-called swing states have paper. The bad news is that by and large there are no mandates to use the paper ballots to actually check whether the computers were correct on the vote counting. Even recounts of highly contested races are not done manually. Only Colorado, Rhode Island have a statewide mandate to conduct a manual audit of the actual election results. Election officials in a number of key states including Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania are committed to doing some sort of check on their election results – but they are challenged by lack of funding, insufficient staffing, and multiple demands on existing overtaxed infrastructure.
Common Cause and our partner organizations the Brennan Center for Justice and Verified Voting are committed to working with state election officials to ensure that there are backup plans for vote counting failures. And we are also working to ensure that there are plans in place to address hacking and technical failures for electronic check-in systems and voter registration databases.
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