IU president: Keeping paper trail is top recommendation for ballot security

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana University President Michael McRobbie said Thursday that the most important way to assure the election is secure is to keep paper ballots around.

McRobbie headed a Committee on the Future of Voting sponsored by the National Academies of Sciences. Many of the recommendations are already in place in Indiana.

It was a webinar planned for Thursday that couldn’t have been more timely after Wednesday’s announcement from National Intelligence officials that voter registration information was in the hands of both Iran and Russia.

But, Marion County election officials say, voters here can trust the results.

Sunny skies and a warm October day brought 1,932 early voters on Thursday to the City-County Building, the most of any day in 2020 so far. The Marion County count will begin on Election Night. Russell Hollis, deputy director with the Marion County Clerk’s Office, said it will be a trustworthy result.

“It’s safe and secure and we’ve actually made enhancements to our voting systems for the 2020 election cycle,” Hollis said.

IU’s McRobbie shared the six most important recommendations from an election security committee formed after the 2016 election, boiled down from 46 recommendations overall.

“Our emphatic, No. 1 recommendation is to only use human-readable paper ballots,” McRobbie said. “Any form of electronic voting that does not involve a paper ballot as a record of that vote is vulnerable.”

That’s the case in Marion County where the voting machines may look like computers but, Hollis said, function more like an electronic pencil.

“It does not record votes,” Hollis said. “It simply captures how you want it to vote and it prints your selections onto a paper ballot.”

McRobbie said the internet should be avoided completely for submitting votes.

Marion County’s system is not connected, and officials use a closed network before uploading results.

Indiana is one of the few states ahead of the curve for the third recommendation: auditing random samples of results to make sure the overall totals are accurate.

Marion County routinely assesses the integrity of the voter databases, which is the fourth recommendation.

McRobbie said there’s more at stake than changing results. It’s the confidence each voter has as in democracy and the legitimacy of the process.

“If there’s widespread skepticism about results and about the way elections are held and their outcomes, not just that it doesn’t have an effect on the election, a specific election itself and the people who are elected, but it even more dangerously starts to undermine the fundamentals of a democratic system,” McRobbie said.

Hollis said no matter the national headlines, that won’t happen here.

“Voters in Marion County should be confident that the election equipment is secure and the results that will be reported on Election Day and night are accurate.”

The fifth recommendation from the committee McRobbie brought up Thursday was congressional funding for a nationwide voting initiative. The committee said the federal government should develop security standards to authorize and fund National Institute of Standards and Technology. They also should provide funding for state and local governments to improve cybersecurity capabilities.

The sixth recommendation is the ability for voters to track mail-in ballots.

In Indiana, voters can see when their requested ballot leaves their county’s election office, when it is returned, and if it’s rejected. But, there’s no tracking confirmation as you can get with the U.S. Postal Service or FedEx.


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