In voting, sometimes what’s old is new again.
That’s why experts are once again advising that all voting machines have a paper trail — some sort of physical record of the vote cast. Those machines that only record votes electronically are vulnerable to outside interference or simple operator error.
That was the message conveyed by a national group to eight Kansas counties recently. As reported by The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Tim Carpenter: “The American Association for the Advancement of Science urged Geary, Grant, Greeley, Hamilton, Harvey, Sumner, Wallace and Wilson counties to abandon their direct recording electronic devices. DREs have voters mark choices via a computer device that records preferences exclusively in an electronic memory.”
We understand the replacing machines might be expensive and that changing procedures might be a hassle. But the call for these counties to update their voting technology seems worthwhile and urgent.
Indeed, well much in our current political landscape is partisan, accurate voting machines and resilient election infrastructure should not be. The ability of every voter to trust that his or her ballot is recorded and counted fairly should be a bedrock principle in our democracy.
Indeed, one of the challenges of President Donald Trump’s time in office is his reflexive bristling whenever the subject of election interference is broached. We can understand why someone with a sense of pride would want to discount reports of other countries manipulating our elections and attempting to hack into voting systems. But personal pride can’t come before national security. And make no mistakes, free and fair and secure elections are just such a priority.
In this case thankfully most of Kansas is doing well. Of the 105 counties in the state, the vast majority have made important upgrades and retain paper records. What’s more, a recent state law requires that new voting systems produce such records. But residents of the eight counties highlighted shouldn’t feel as though their votes might not count. Resources should be found to provide them with the latest and most secure voting technology.
And yes, apparently that means leaving a paper trail. When it comes to security, nothing beats an actual physical record.
Kansas has a long and honorable record of getting things done the right way when it counts. This is one such situation. The need is clear, the gap is present.
It’s time for our leaders to step up and make it happen.