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Online-only voting? Don’t do it, experts say

Electronic voting
Experts say electronic voting systems need to generate a voter-verifiable paper audit trail. (U.S. State Dept. Photo)

Chastened by Russian interference and hacking attempts in the 2016 election, academic experts on voting technology say electronic voting machines that don’t leave a paper trail should be phased out as soon as possible.

“Every effort should be made to use human-readable paper ballots in the 2018 federal election,” the experts write in a report issued today by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. “All local, state and federal elections should be conducted using human-readable paper ballots by the 2020 presidential election.”

That’s already the case for Washington, Oregon and Colorado, where mail-only voting has become the norm. (The report notes that “vote-by-mail” is something of a misnomer, since most ballots are still returned by hand. “Ballot delivery by mail” comes closer to the mark.)

Washington’s election officials have implemented the report’s top recommendation for mail-voting systems: giving voters an easy way to check whether their ballot has been sent, and where their returned ballot is in the system. The “MyVote” websitelinks to online ballot trackers as well as voter registration information.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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