Do You Have to Use a Voting Machine?

Color image of some people voting in some polling booths at a voting station.
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 03, 2019 6:00 AM

The problems with electronic voting machines have been well documented. "Georgia's current voting equipment, software, election and voter databases, are antiquated, seriously flawed, and vulnerable to failure, breach, contamination, and attack," a federal court recently ruled, ordering the state to ditch its old voting machines and have paper ballots ready as a backup in time for the 2020 elections.

And in Mississippi, a voter took video of a machine repeatedly changing her vote in the state's GOP gubernatorial primary runoff. So, do you have the option of choosing a paper ballot when you head to the polls?

Paperless Problems

According to the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, election officials "confirmed the problems with only three machines in two counties," but issues were allegedly reported from at least seven polling locations. In the video, a voter clicks candidates Bill Waller Jr.'s name more than a dozen times, and each time the vote automatically changes to opponent Tate Reeves. "It is not letting me vote for who I want to vote for," a man complains, while a woman in the background asks, "How can that happen?"

How indeed? Mississippi is one of eight states (along with Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Texas) slated to use paperless voting machines in the upcoming election. According to a new report by New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, that means 16 million Americans will cast votes on machines that can be hacked. This comes at a time when top Congressional and law enforcement officials have attempted to sound the alarm regarding foreign election interfere, and Chris Krebs, the Department of Homeland Security's top cybersecurity official, said that paper ballot backups are needed in 2020.

Voting Solutions

The process of voting is regulated at the state, rather than federal, level. So, access to paper ballots may depend on where you live. "If you have a problem with your voting machine at your polling location," according to USA.gov, "let your local poll workers know. You can also contact your state/territorial election office."

You do have other options if you distrust the machines. Early voting allows registered voters vote on specified dates before Election Day. and some states have in-person absentee voting, which lets you vote early as well, but you must request an absentee ballot. The procedures for early and in-person absentee voting are also set by states, so check your state's ballot rules to learn more.

Depending on where you live, you may not have the option of paper voting at the polls on election day. But that doesn't necessarily mean you're entirely out of luck when it comes to casting a paper ballot. If you need help voting or enforcing your voting rights, contact a local election attorney.

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