In a bid to improve election security, Choctaw County, MS, has introduced voting machines that use paper. Ironically, the absence of a federal or State certification requirement has allowed the county to work with a nonprofit to deliver a smoother, more secure, anxiety free process. ProPublica reports that Choctaw County officials are very happy – and excited – with the result. Rep. Mike Espy has praised Choctaw County’s initiative:
Because Mississippi isn’t subject to the federal certification process, they were free to partner with VotingWorks, a nonprofit founded by Ben Adida and Matt Pasternack.
The voting machines print out a paper copy which the voter can double check and deposit in a secure box. In theory this will produce more reliable results because the voter can check the actual copy of the vote they’re submitting.
So how well does this work in practice?
Everything went fine when the voting machines were used on Nov 5, according to officials interviewed by ProPublica. The machines proved to be easy to install, easy to fix, and easy to use.
Maurice Turner of the Center for Democracy and Security observed the election. While he feels it wasn’t perfect – for example, a few machines needed to be rebooted – voters adjusted quickly to the new process, and it ran faster than the old process being used to scan the absentee votes.
VotingWorks’ aim is to improve access to voting – shorter lines, a smoother process – as well as producing more reliable results. This goes towards fighting voter suppression as well as protecting the integrity of elections.
Mike Espy is right in saying “It’s time for everyone to take voter suppression and ballot counting seriously so that our government can truly represent the people.” The initiative taken by VotingWorks and Choctaw County looks to be a good step forward.
What would it take for others to follow suit? Maurice Turner sees a need for updated security requirements so that more vendors can move away from the typical model. VotingWorks used a combination of open source software and off-the-shelf commercial hardware that allowed them to be flexible, and come up with a balance between security and ease of use.
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