INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Election Commission recently approved the first voter-verifiable paper audit trail for electronic voting systems -- though it’s unclear when Allen County might see the mechanism.
The VVPAT, as it is called by election officials, is a security measure that allows voters to independently verify their vote was correctly recorded.
In Indiana, almost half the counties use direct record electronic machines. There is a paper trail in the back of the machines, but it is not visible to the voter. As a security measure, paper trails that are visible to the voter are being added to those machines.
Lawmakers provided $10 million in the current budget to equip 10% of electronic voting equipment with a VVPAT. Voters will start seeing the equipment at the polls this fall, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
By 2029, all voting equipment in the state will be required to have a voter verifiable paper trail.
"Adding VVPATs to election equipment will help boost voter confidence and allow us to implement risk limiting audits," Secretary of State Connie Lawson said. "Together, these practices will show voters at the polls their vote is safe and secure and following up with a post-election audit will confirm their vote was counted. As we prepare for the upcoming presidential election, we will be working to protect 2020 and beyond."
Allen County has 715 direct record electronic machines, and to outfit all of them would cost $1.2 million, said Beth Dlug, Allen County’s director of elections.
Valerie Warycha, spokeswoman for Lawson, said the office is going to check with each county on what they need. She said some counties are in the process of buying new equipment and may not need the attachment for their current machines.
The general plan is for the state to buy the VVPAT equipment to attach to 10% of the direct record electronic machines in each county.
Dlug said Allen County officials are still gathering information on the equipment and said it likely will be discussed at a September meeting of the county election board. She and local workers just received a demonstration of the unit last week, and she doubts any will be in place for the fall election.
She noted a pilot is being conducted in a few counties, and Allen might want to see the results of the pilot first.
"I can see the merit in them, and anything that provides more transparency for voters is a great thing. But we have to do more research," Dlug said.
One major concern is if only 10% of the machines have the voter verifiable trail, how local officials disperse them. Ultimately that will mean some voters will be treated differently than others.
"We are hoping for some guidance on what is fair," she said.
Other area counties with direct record electronic machines are Adams, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, Noble, Wabash, Wells and Whitley.
Some counties use optical scan machines, which have paper ballots that the voter marks and then a machine counts the votes. Since they already have the voter verifiable paper trail, no new equipment is needed.
All election equipment used in Indiana goes through an extensive review and testing process prior to use.
First, the equipment must be approved by the Election Assistance Commission to meet federal requirements. Next, the Voting System Technical Oversight Program at Ball State University reviews and tests the equipment to ensure it meets Indiana standards.
Once a piece of equipment has those approvals, it goes to the Indiana Election Commission.