But there was a critical weak spot. Voting machines known as Direct Recording Electronic machines, or DREs, do not generate paper records for individual votes. And paper ballots are essential pieces of evidence for checking a count’s accuracy. With DREs, the vote is recorded on the machine and combined with voting data from other machines during the tabulation process. If those machines were compromised, state officials would not have the benefit of back-up paper ballots to conduct an audit.

In 2016, five states used DREs statewide, including Georgia and Pennsylvania, with a handful of others using DREs in multiple jurisdictions. Fortunately, by 2020, Louisiana was the last one with statewide DRE usage. Congress provided grant funding in 2018, 2019 and 2020 to states to help them retire the paperless machines and roll out auditable systems. As the 2020 election season began, Delaware, Georgia, Pennsylvania and South Carolina all swapped over to paper-based systems. Then the emergence of the pandemic prompted a nationwide surge toward the use of voting by mail.

The combined efforts over the past three years moved the total number of expected votes cast with a paper ballot above 90 percent, including the traditional battleground states. While I no longer regularly speak to election officials, my understanding is that in the 2020 results no significant discrepancies attributed to manipulation have been discovered in the post-election canvassing, audit and recount processes.