Most states still aren’t set to audit paper ballots in 2020

Despite some progress on voting security since 2016, most states in the US aren’t set to require an audit of paper ballots in the November 2020 election, according to a new report out this week from the Brennan Center for Justice.

The report notes that experts and government officials have spent years recommending states adopt verifiable paper ballots for elections, but a handful still use electronic methods potentially vulnerable to cyberattacks. In 2016, 14 states used paperless machines, although the number today is 11, and the report estimates that no more than eight will use them in the 2020 election.

But the report also found that most states won’t require an audit of those paper records, in which officials review randomly selected ballots — another step experts recommend. Today, only 22 states and the District of Columbia have voter-verifiable paper records and require an audit of those ballots before an election is certified. The number will increase to at least 24 states by the 2020 elections, according to the report. “However,” the report notes, “there is nothing stopping most of these remaining states from conducting such audits if they have the resources and will to do so.”

Access to resources seems to be a key issue. Many jurisdictions would like to move to new equipment, but don’t have the funds to do so, according to the report.

Election security became a new focus of debate recently, as Democrats slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for failing to bring election security bills up for a vote. The bills proposed by Democrats would require states to use paper ballots and audit the results.

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