For secure elections, choose paper ballots over machines

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When voters head to the polls on Election Day, they need to know their vote will count. Based on available evidence, computer scientists have clearly stated that paper ballots marked either by hand or machine are the most effective way to secure elections from interference or error.

Yet, 23 counties across North Carolina — including Wilson County — are using direct recording electronic voting machines. Just last year, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine issued a report finding that these machines are not secure and should be removed from service as soon as possible.

We applaud North Carolina officials for considering scientific evidence and passing a bill in 2013 that requires paper ballots from all voting machines. The NASEM committee of computer science and cybersecurity experts, legal and election scholars, social scientists and election officials concluded that all local, state and federal elections should be conducted using human-readable paper ballots by the 2020 elections and states should mandate statistically valid audits prior to the certification of election results.

We recognize the time, money and resources it takes for local officials to implement these changes. Now that the North Carolina State Board of Elections will soon certify voting systems that generate paper ballots, it is critical that election officials work as expeditiously as possible to switch from direct recording electronic machines and implement sound audit procedures appropriate for the new systems.

We expect that officials in North Carolina will consider this critical scientific evidence when taking steps to secure our elections and maintain public confidence in our election system in 2020 and beyond.

William Rand

Michael D. Fernandez


Rand is an associate professor at N.C. State University’s Poole College of Management. Fernandez is director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues.