In this case, though, we need to stick with methods that allow a paper trail that is verifiable after the election. No matter how you vote, there should be a tightly guarded paper record that can be used for audits, if not for the initial counting. This is not just because paper verification is more tamper-resistant than our insecure voting machines. Our elections need to be open to oversight without the need for voters to understand how encryption works. We can’t tell them to simply trust the experts, especially when people are deliberately sowing distrust.
There is another upside to relying on paper. Audits of such systems can require something else that, at first glance, seems like a hindrance: People need to show up to do them. As the “hanging chads” debacle in Florida demonstrated in the 2000 election, paper systems, too, can be badly designed. However, in a healthy democracy, requiring people to show up is a good thing.
There are already minefields ahead for this election. Georgia, for example, relies on electronic systems that leave no paper trail. The machines in Georgia are also quite old, and a Brennan Center for Justice report found that their software was “outdated” — primarily using operating systems like Windows 2000. This not only puts them at risk for crashes and lost votes, but also leaves them more vulnerable to hacking, as such older software no longer receives fixes for security flaws.