Voting machines need paper trail

Published 8:36 pm Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Greenwood Commonwealth on instances of touchscreen voting machines malfunctioning during Mississippi elections:

Aug. 27’s election gave further credence to the argument that the touchscreen voting machines Mississippi uses should be mothballed.

Voters and election officials reported several cases where the Diebold TSX voting machines, still used in 69 counties, including Leflore and Carroll, malfunctioned. In one case, captured on a widely circulated video, a Lafayette County voter clicked on Bill Waller Jr.’s name in the Republican gubernatorial primary, and his vote registered for Tate Reeves. The voter tried it a dozen times and got the same result.

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This malfunction was a bit comical because it was visible. But what if the same thing had happened “under the hood” — that is, the voter clicked on Waller’s name, saw the check mark in the right place on the touchscreen, but when he cast the ballot, it recorded the vote for Reeves on the machine’s memory card. Since there is no paper ballot to compare the voter’s intent to what is recorded electronically, it is impossible to verify the accuracy of the electronic vote.

To say any such vote-swapping occurred is far-fetched, but there is no way currently to rule out the possibility.

That’s why Mississippi needs to mandate that all counties have a paper trail for their voting machines, such as the paper ballot/optical scanner combo to which the remaining 13 counties have gone.

Not only would that be a check against fraud, but in the more probable scenario, it would allow election officials to recreate the vote if the election technology were to fail.