Should Voting Machines be Scrapped?

Recap: The three main elements of election voting are:

  1. The voter,
  2. The machines, and
  3. The process.

All three need to be on the up-and-up to assure election integrity.

One of the core election integrity debates is whether using electronic voting (machines, etc.) is a net asset or net liability?

In researching this topic, I found it interesting how that key question was often subtly massaged. For example, a video is “Electronic Voting Machines: Do They Improve the Voting Process?” What exactly does improve the process mean?

Many people would say that waiting in long lines to vote is a waste of time, so if machines make things go quicker, they would be labeled as an improvement.

Considering what is at stake (e.g., that a President gets to largely determine our country’s policies for 4+ years), ballot accuracy for eligible voting citizens is by far the most important criterion. Sacrificing accuracy for speed makes no sense at all.

Another frequent justification for using voting machines is this type of claimcountries like Canada, Norway, and Australia have already experienced success with their adoption of electronic voting systems. However, it is not clear what they are calling “success” — speed or accuracy? In other words, how many of these “success” stories have genuine post-election audits?

Maybe I’ve missed it, but I was unable to find any evidence of meaningfulmandated post-election audits done in CanadaNorway, or Australia. I found it interesting that there were extensive provisions for auditing election-related expenses (e.g., stamps), but nothing comparable to audit election ballot accuracy!

A new major concern is the impetus to skip right over the effort needed to assure that electronic machines are accurate and secure, and go to the next level: online voting.

Here is a Left-leaning source sounding the alarm against this extremely risky election methodology. This Stanford scientist states that “computer scientists and security experts are nearly unanimous in opposition to online voting.”

To be able to answer the question posed by the Title, we need to be crystal clear about what our priorities are. As stated above, considering the enormous influence that our representatives have on all of us, the number one priority simply has to be accuracy. There are other legitimate factors (speed, cost, availability, accessibility, etc.) and we should make reasonable efforts to address all of these.

However, under no circumstances should accuracy be sacrificed for anything else!

A second fundamental matter we need to be clear about is that there are three (not two) major election process options:

  • low electronics (e.g., paper ballots, all hand counted),
  • moderate electronics (e.g., paper ballots, machine-scanned [and counted], and
  • high electronics (e.g., voting and tabulating are all done by digital machines.

When most people say “voting machines” they are usually referring to the third option.

Assuming that, the question is: are voting machines less accurate than the two main paper ballot options? My answers:

  1. Using hand-counted paper ballots is NOT a flawless option. We need to acknowledge that there are serious accuracy issues with paper ballots — e.g., here. Another example of the susceptibility of the low electronics version is drop boxes. Just because everything is done on paper, does NOT assure election integrity.
  2. The high electronics option is the most susceptible to hacking. Worse, it has the least amount of a paper trail — which makes this the hardest to meaningfully audit for chain of custody (accuracy). These are two killer weaknesses, with no reasonable solutions. This results in the least accurate of the three options here.
  3. Of the practical options available to us, the moderate electronics version (machine-scanned paper ballots) appears to be the best choice. However, it is critically important that proper (and uniform) regulations be placed on both: a) the voter (to assure that legitimate citizens only vote once), plus b) the electronic components (to minimize the possibility of ballot manipulation by electronics).

To optimize the accuracy of the best option (moderate electronics), at least two changes need to be made, for ALL states:

Make the paper ballot more secure.

As an example, on the Florida ballot, there is now a box (about ½ by ½ inch), at the top left of the ballot.  It is for the Supervisor of Elections to enter a special code that will not affect the reading of the ballot by the ballot scanner.  What could be done nationally is that every ballot would have a unique alpha-serial code (UPC or invisible) — but it would not identify a voter. If done right, it would make it much more difficult to mass-produce fraudulent ballots, for persons to vote twice, etc.

Have state-to-state uniform, meaningful electronics regulations.

Texas seems to have one of the better sets of election-related machine regulations. From what I know (and correct me if I’m mistaken) few states have that amount of specificity and oversight of election-related electronic components.

That there is no state-to-state rule and regulation uniformity, is very problematic. It’s an open invitation for bad actors to infiltrate the states with weaker rules (just like a bank with weaker security would more likely be a target of thieves).

As much as I’m concerned about federal involvement, having a requirement that all states code their paper ballots, plus having a national set of uniform minimum election machine regulations that states are obligated to comply with, makes some sense.

Final thought: No matter what choice we make about the voting mechanics, it is absolutely imperative that there are quick, forensic post-election audits. Currently, there are no meaningful mandated post-election audits. (Various versions of recounts are superficial deceptions.) For more info see the Report my team wrote on this topic.

Some sample references (I purposely selected articles from before and after 2020):

Top 10 Pro & Con Voting Machine Arguments is an interesting discussion (2009)

A 3-minute video: Are Voting Machines a Net Asset? (2014)

Top 10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Electronic Voting Machines(2017)

Pros and Cons of Connected Voting Machines (2022)

Are Electronic Voting Machines the Best Method for Voting? (2022)

Pros and Cons of Electronic Voting Machines (2023)

©2024. John Droz, Jr.. All rights reserved.

Note: I will continue to update my prior commentary, Mann v Steyn, with new articles about that important, ongoing trial — so please periodically check the links at the end of it.

This is the fourth installment of a five-part series on the upcoming 2024 US elections. See Part 1 (How to Win the US Presidency), Part 2 (The Rhyme and Reason of Negative Ballots), and Part 3 (2020 Presidential Election Related Lawsuits). Part 5 will assess whether the 2020 election was mostly honest or dishonest.

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