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Statement on Ensuring Election Security

Paper ballots and statistically sound audits are needed to ensure election security

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 EPI Center’s Director, Michael Fernandez, issued the following statement:

“The scientific evidence regarding election security is clear: Paper ballots marked either by hand or machine are the most effective way to secure elections from interference or error and statistically sound audits are the most effective way to validate results. Across the country, there is more work to be done to ensure that all elections are secure.

Unfortunately, millions of voters in as many as 11 states will vote today on paperless direct recording electronic (DREs) that are outdated and vulnerable to errors and interference. Without a paper record of each vote, there is no way to audit election results when inconsistencies occur, if they are detected at all. Every effort should be taken to ensure that these DREs are removed from service prior to the 2020 election, including ensuring that states and counties have the funding necessary to move to a more secure system and routinely audit election results.

Election officials should work to implement risk-limiting audits, which have been endorsed by the American Statistical Association and are designed to provide statistical evidence of whether the outcome of the election is accurate with a high level of confidence. These audits are often less expensive and resource-intensive than traditional full recounts but require an auditable paper trail.  

Over the past few months, the AAAS EPI Center has reached out to more than 600 election officials in eight states to provide scientific evidence about voting machines and risk-limiting audits. We recognize that scientific evidence is often only one of many factors to consider in decisions, and we appreciate the time, money, and resources it takes for local officials to implement new audit procedures or replace equipment they have used for years. However, these changes are essential for the security of our elections and we must all work together to strengthen election security.”

To learn more about the science behind election security, visit  https://www.aaas.org/programs/epi-center or follow us on Twitter @aaasepicenter

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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

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