Should we go back to using paper ballots?
via AP

Should we go back to using paper ballots?

#CantHackPaper
#MachinesOverPaper
Join the conversation and vote below

As reports of election hacking continue to break, many are calling on a return to paper ballots. The shift to paperless voting started after the "hanging chad" debacle during the 2000 presidential election, in which paper ballots were deemed less reliable than electronic voting machines. But paper is hack-proof, and as the Russians step up their efforts to influence our elections, some think it's better to be safe than sorry. What do you think? 🗳️

THE VOTES ARE IN!
#CantHackPaper
76.9%
#MachinesOverPaper
23.1%

Russian election meddling has led many to believe it is time we return to paper ballots. The Senate Intelligence Committee recommended states take steps to secure their elections by including the use of paper ballots in their voting systems.

The Senate Intelligence Committee offered recommendations on Tuesday for securing American elections from foreign attacks, pressing states to buy voting machines that produce paper ballots and to secure voter databases, and calling for better cooperation between state and federal elections officials ahead of November’s midterm elections.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds of USA Today argues efforts to strengthen cybersecurity aren't enough—paper offers a completely hack-proof means of ensuring everyone's vote is counted.

In some ways, paper and ink is a super technology. When you cast a vote on a voting machine, all that’s recorded is who you voted for. But a paper ballot captures lots of other information: Ink color, handwriting, etc. If you have access to a voting machine that’s connected to the Internet, you can change all the votes at once. To change a bunch of paper ballots takes physical access, and unless you’re very careful the changed ballots will show evidence of tampering. Paper ballots aren’t fraud-proof, of course, as a century of Chicago politics demonstrates, but they’re beyond the reach of some guy sitting at a computer in a basement halfway around the world.

Mandating paper ballots would be a quick and relatively simple solution to threats of Russian hacking on our future elections. Paper ballots aren't perfect, but it is virtually impossible to "hack" physical copies of votes.

But paper ballots aren't without their problems. Lest we forget the 2000 presidential election that came down to a few "hanging chads" in Florida? Paper ballots are prone to human error, and there's no way to audit a vote without physically recounting every individual ballot. HBO literally made a movie about the problems with paper ballots.

Sarah Diamond of eBallot also points out that paper ballots can be easily destroyed or tampered with. "Misplacing" one box of ballots could be enough to flip an election. Electronic voting means faster results, better ways to audit, historical data and increased security.

  • Traditional voting requires ballots to be printed and mailed
  • Waiting for mail-in paper ballots can be time-consuming and inefficient
  • There’s no way to audit this system unless you manually re-count the votes
  • Proxy voting may lead to vote tampering
  • Paper ballots are susceptible to damage and can be stored for a definite amount of time
  • Tallying paper votes requires a secure system, one that’s usually left to the discretion of the administrator

But another issue with current electronic voting machines is that they are simply out-of-date. As Vox and ProPublica explain, election equipment is underfunded in many states, forcing counties to rely on voting machines that are upwards of 10 years old. If nothing else, we should revert back to paper ballots until we've updated our electronic voting technology.

Without the money needed to maintain and update electronic voting machines, officials have to make do with equipment that was manufactured in 2008 or even earlier. By isolating machines from the internet and keeping them in secure locations, officials are able to reduce the threat of widespread hacking, but the machines are plagued with more mundane technical problems that states have been slow to address and could have major consequences for future elections. 
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