“Can Paper Ballots Save Our Democracy?”

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The Story

“Can Paper Ballots Save Our Democracy?”
by Chris Iovenko
Slate, October 10, 2018

The Pitch

Can Paper Ballots Save our Democracy? Although we will never know for sure if the Russians managed to alter any particular state’s vote tallies in 2016, the Department of Homeland Security recently confirmed Russian attacks on voting systems in 21 states. Doubtless, the Russians and even perhaps others will try again. Our elections are vulnerable for one simple reason: the way the majority of us cast our vote is outdated and deeply vulnerable. Just how vulnerable? The Center for American Progress just released a study that evaluated voting machines across the country and the results should scare the hell out of anyone who cares about the security and future of our democracy. Fully 41 states use electronic voting machines whose decade-old or more software uses outdated security programs that are extremely vulnerable to even modestly sophisticated hacking methods and malware. A quarter of these digital machines leave no paper trail so there is no way to recount, validate or even check the number of actual votes cast. Worse still, the battleground states rate the poorest for vote security with the electoral heavyweights Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida coming in last. The situation is further complicated by the voting machine manufacturers who keep their software secret and therefore block objective testing.

The fix, however, is simple; return to a publicly operated system of paper ballots. A few states such as Virginia are doing just that. However, in order to secure the November election and make sure that it is fair and democratic a lot more states are going to have to follow Virginia’s example and fast. In the article I’m proposing, I’d begin with an update on news around this issue such as the lawsuit in Georgia that may force the state to adopt paper ballots before the November election. The bulk of the article would discuss how we got into this mess in the first place, whether paper ballots are indeed the cure for this complicated problem and what the forces are that are standing in the way of securing and rectifying our voting process.

Chris Iovenko

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