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Applied sciences and engineering/Computer science

The recanvass of votes in the Kentucky gubernatorial race highlights the importance of key scientific evidence regarding election security and integrity, specifically the need for paper ballots and statistically sound post-election audits to inspire confidence in election results. In a race that may be determined by a few thousand votes, election officials cannot conduct a recount because Kentucky’s voting machines are entirely electronic and paperless. Instead, Kentucky county election officials will submit certified vote forms based on totals tabulated by the voting machines themselves and absentee ballots.

As voters head to the polls today, the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues (EPI Center) warns that action is needed at the local, state, and federal levels to strengthen election security.

The North Carolina Board of Elections voted to certify voting systems based on paper ballots. The following is a statement from Michael Fernandez, director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues.

There is currently no scientific evidence to support claims that online voting is safe or secure; other technologies are not ready for immediate deployment.

The evidence shows that the routine use of statistically driven risk-limiting audits would be the most effective way to ensure the accuracy and security of elections. With the increase in the use of technology to record and tally votes, auditing election results before they are certified can provide additional assurance of the integrity of the results.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 provided funds to help states and counties upgrade voting equipment and many adopted electronic voting machines. But today many voting systems are outdated and vulnerable to interference or errors and some states and counties lack the funds to replace them. A lack of regular, ongoing funding for election security remains one of the primary concerns of election officials. Despite these challenges, election administrators across the country are working to address election security issues and many recently replaced outdated paperless machines and moved to using paper ballots.

New Jersey is among 11 states that continue to use paperless voting to some degree. Over a decade ago, New Jersey recognized the threat of paperless voting systems by requiring a paper record of votes. However, the state never set a deadline for counties to replace paperless machines. Eighteen of 21 counties in New Jersey still use direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines that do not produce a paper record.

The AAAS Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues (EPI Center) voting security and technology initiative focuses on assisting local, state and federal officials. Last month, the EPI Center called every county election office in New Jersey to discuss whether they plan to purchase new voting systems.

The secretaries of state of Michigan and Alabama joined election security experts to warn members of Congress that much more must be done to secure American elections by 2020. They appeared before the Congressional House committee that oversees federal elections on May 8 to discuss how to combat foreign interference; aging and insecure voting machines, particularly paperless machines; and the need for post-election audits.

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