To register to vote in Indiana, visit www.indianavoters.in.gov through October 5.
On October 6, Hoosiers will begin casting their ballots during early voting for the 2020 elections. Most of the state’s 4.5 million registered voters will enter their selections using an electronic voting machine. But new analysis from the IU Public Policy Institute finds that Indiana’s reliance on older paperless voting machines poses security risks in the upcoming election.
Indiana is among just eight states nationwide using paperless voting machines for the November 2020 elections. While Louisiana is the only one of those states that is completely reliant upon electronic voting machines, 57 percent of Indiana’s voting equipment produces no paper trail to verify votes.
In 60 of the state’s 92 counties, voters submit their ballots using direct-recording electronic voting machines known as DREs. However, only eight of those counties—Wayne, White, Boone, Hendricks, Hamilton, Johnson, Bartholomew, and Knox counties—use DRE machines that include a paper trail. The other 52 counties use machines that produce no paper ballot.
DRE machines first became popular following the Florida election recount controversy in 2000. Yet concerns began surfacing just a few years later about the machines’ security, specifically about the lack of a backup paper trail to verify voters’ selections.
“Without a verifiable paper record of votes, it can be difficult to detect security breaches or errors in the electronic systems,” says Joti Martin, a policy analyst at PPI. “Not having a paper trail also makes it more challenging to recount or audit votes in the event of an election-related issue.”
In 2018, complaints surfaced in Texas and Georgia alleging that DREs used during the elections either switched or deleted votes, likely due to a software glitch blamed on outdated software and old machines. Indiana’s voting equipment is also aging. In the last presidential election, 83 percent of counties in the state used voting machines that were at least 8 years old.
A federal lawsuit was filed to replace paperless voting machines throughout Indiana in 2019. That same year, a law was passed requiring all Indiana counties to move to paper trail voting systems by 2030. However, this timeline leaves elections vulnerable for the next decade. While some areas in the state have already moved to paper-based voting systems, other jurisdictions say that a lack of funding is holding them back.
Analysts with PPI say there are steps those jurisdictions can take to increase voting security and ensure every Hoosier’s vote is counted.
“Jurisdictions that cannot update their machines before the November 2020 elections should take extra precautions in storing, maintaining, and testing machines both before and after the election,” Martin adds. “We also recommend they upgrade their plans for post-election audits to ensure votes are counted accurately, and to adopt effective practices for machine maintenance and poll worker training.”
Yet not all Indiana voters will cast ballots on DRE machines. In Marion County—Indiana’s most populous county—and six others, voters submit their selections through ballot-marking devices. These machines allow voters to make their selections via a touch screen or mechanical option but also print out a paper record that is scanned by a reader to register the ballot. The state’s 25 remaining counties use hand-marked ballots but provide either ballot-marking devices or DREs as accessibility alternatives.
To read the full policy brief on voting machine security in Indiana, visit the IU Public Policy Institute’s website at this link.