Skip to main content

Statement on certification of voting systems in North Carolina

Statement from Michael Fernandez, Director of AAAS Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues (EPI Center)

Today the North Carolina Board of Elections voted to certify voting systems based on paper ballots. By law, counties must use voting machines with a paper record by 2020 but the state legislature may delay implementation. Last month the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on election security and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election which stated, ‘Given Russian intentions to undermine the credibility of the election process, states should take urgent steps to replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems.’

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:

“The North Carolina Board of Elections decision to certify voting systems based on paper ballots is an important step in improving election security in North Carolina.

Now county officials must act immediately to replace insecure electronic voting machines. Computer science and cybersecurity experts, legal and election scholars, social scientists, and election officials all agree that direct recording electronic machines – which are currently being used in some North Carolina counties – are not secure and should be removed from service as soon as possible.

The use of barcodes on paper ballots presents additional risk as barcodes containing vote selections could potentially differ from the human-readable portion of the ballot. Officials considering ballot marking devices that rely on  barcodes should adopt rigorous audit procedures to mitigate this risk.

North Carolina should move quickly to implement risk-limiting audits. Risk-limiting audits are designed to provide statistical evidence of whether the outcome of the election is accurate with a high level of confidence. Such audits can provide statistical evidence of whether the outcome of the election is accurate with a high level of confidence. For instance, they could identify any discrepancies in systems that record and tabulate votes using a barcode.  

We recognize the time, money, and resources it takes for election officials to implement new systems. However, given the importance of elections in our democracy, it is critical that North Carolina officials work as expeditiously as possible to switch from direct recording electronic machines to the newly certified systems and implement appropriate audits. Voters must have confidence that their vote is counted correctly.”

 — Michael D. Fernandez, founding director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues (EPI Center)

The EPI Center, which is designed to deliver clear, concise, and actionable evidence to policymakers and other decision-makers, has been reaching out to election officials across the country to provide scientific information regarding voting technology and security. One of the resources we have shared is the 2018 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report, Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy, that recommends ways to improve the security of U.S. election infrastructure.

To learn more about the Center’s work, visit www.aaas.org/programs/epi-center.

###

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science, as well as Science Translational Medicine; Science Signaling; a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances; Science Immunology; and Science Robotics. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes nearly 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world. The nonprofit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For additional information about AAAS, see www.aaas.org.

Author

Kathryn McGrath

Communications Director, Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues

Related Focus Areas