Last week’s primary runoff election brought to light concerns with voting technology, with two voting machines malfunctioning and being removed that day by county technicians, as cited by the Mississippi secretary of state’s office. While only 22 votes had been cast, even one or two issues during the Election Day process is cause for concern.
In Lafayette County, one machine registered a vote for Republican Tate Reeves, when the voter had pressed the touch screen checkbox for Republican Bill Waller Jr. The Mississippi secretary of state’s office confirmed two older touch screen models showed instances of “vote flipping,” where a vote is cast for one candidate, but the machine indicates the vote for another candidate.
Officials have stated that most likely the cause for these issues was incorrect calibration of the screens, which is not uncommon in older touch screen voting machines.
With the November general election only a couple months away and the presidential primary elections coming up in April, 2020, the need to be proactive rather than reactive in the voting process has never been more important.
Last week’s issues don’t suggest abandoning touch-screen voting, but it does mean that we need to recognize its limitations. The need for advance testing is important, as well as ensuring adequate standards are in place for testing and certifying them.
With more use of machines in today’s elections, the old paper ballot trail seems to be falling by the wayside. But, in a report released in July by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, among the election-related recommendations made were that states should “replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems with ‘at minimum … a voter-verified paper trail,’ and adopt statistically sound audits.”
Today we receive receipts for every transaction we make. If those are important, then why not one for our vote. The ballot receipt, printed after the ballot is cast, can help reassure voters that their vote was received and counted as intended in the election and can also be used in the after-election audit.
When our voting selections are not accurately recorded, whether by incorrect calibration or outdated systems, then our confidence in the democratic process is weakened and undermines our faith in the system.
Voters need to be reassured that their votes do count and in the way they intended, and not have doubts about election results. It is important that all checks and balances be in place to ensure voting equipment is reliable before the next election. Public trust depends on it.