The Journal Gazette
Friday, August 31, 2018 1:00 am


Paper trail

Vote security must include non-digital record

Voters on both sides of the political aisle are approaching the Nov. 6 general election with concern – and for good reason. No less than the secretary of homeland security has confirmed the government has “seen a willingness and a capability on the part of the Russians” to hack into our election infrastructure, including voter rolls and voting machines. 

Congress made $380 million available to help states guard against cyberattacks, but Indiana's $7.5 million share isn't enough to provide the security Hoosiers deserve. Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced Indiana will use its federal funds to enhance election security but said those enhancements don't include voting machines statewide capable of producing a voter-verifiable paper trail.

 “The Secretary of State's office will coordinate and plan with the Indiana General Assembly for future replacement of voting equipment since the required budget to replace direct-recording electronic voting machines without a voter-verified paper trail requires a larger amount than the available 2018 HAVA Elections Security Grant Funds,” Lawson wrote in a letter to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Five percent of the federal grant must be matched with state money. Indiana put $659,000 toward election security improvements.

The League of Women Voters of Indiana is understandably concerned. In a white paper released last month, the league noted Indiana was one of two states – Florida was the other – to receive a grade of F in an assessment of election security done by the left-leaning Center for American Progress. Indiana's lack of voter-verifiable paper ballots was one factor in the state's discouraging mark.

“The most important aspect of a voting system, with respect to accuracy, integrity and security, is whether or not it is independently auditable,” according to Verified Voting, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for verifiable elections. “That is, the very prerequisite to accuracy, integrity and security in today's voting technology is that there be a voter-marked paper ballot, or at least a voter-verifiable paper audit trail, for every vote cast. This ensures that election officials will have something they can use to confirm whether or not the electronic tallies produced by the voting system accurately reflected the intention of the voters.”

Allen County's voting machines, now more than a decade old, are certified by the Election Assistance Commission to 2002 federal standards. They were upgraded last year to “the highest level available that is produced by the vendor and certified by both the federal and state certification programs,” according to Beth Dlug, Allen County director of elections. 

“I feel like the League of Women Voters' call for paper verifiable ballots and audited election results are an important part of the conversation we should be having at this time regarding election security,” she said Thursday. “Part of that conversation includes understanding that paper ballots have their own vulnerabilities.”

Dlug said the county's machines always have had a paper trail of each vote that can be audited to ensure accuracy.

“In addition to manual testing and audits, our voting machines will now be electronically audited for physical and cybersecurity intrusions, both pre-election and post-election. Our voting machines, tabulation systems and programming systems are not connected to the internet, and that is an important part of what works for us right now,” she said.

“But in the end, we must have processes in place that people can have confidence in.”

Dlug, who is co-chair of the election committee for the Indiana Executive Council on Cybersecurity, said she can attest to the state's efforts to enact best practices in election security.

“I can also confirm that major upgrades have already taken place to improve elections security. We must continue to push for centralized standards and enhanced controls to detect any intrusion across the state,” she said.

Dlug is right. With demonstrated threats to the security and integrity of our elections, paper ballots should serve as a backup to hackable election software statewide. Unfortunately, that won't be an option in time for the November elections.

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