House Bill Would Force Paper Ballots, Prevent Election Systems from Connecting to Internet

New legislation hopes to make elections more secure by making them less electronic.

by / September 21, 2016

In the name of cybersecurity, election tech could begin to slide from digital back to analog under a bill introduced Sept. 21 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Election Integrity Act of 2016, from Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Georgia, would prohibit government from buying any election system that didn’t include paper voting — at least as a backup to an electronic interface, if not as the primary method of counting votes. The bill would also prohibit election systems from being connected to the Internet or almost any other remote device.

According to VerifiedVoting.org, a nonprofit group that lobbies for voting systems, there are five states that use electronic-only voting without a paper trail: New Jersey, Delaware, South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana. Another 10 states allow for mixed methods that can include electronic systems without paper.

Johnson’s bills follow several stories from 2016 of attempts to manipulate, or at the very least compromise, this year’s election. During primary season, hacked information from the Democratic National Committee led to the resignation of a top party official. Hackers have also breached election systems in Illinois and Arizona.

A New York Times report out of rural Georgia of police officers physically approaching black voters to challenge their voting rights also raised old concerns about intimidation tactics.

“In the wake of the DNC server hack and well documented efforts by states to suppress the vote, citizens are rightly concerned,” Johnson said in a statement. “We must work to reduce the vulnerability of our crucial voting systems, protect the security and integrity of our electoral process, and ensure all Americans have the opportunity to vote.”

The act also calls for governments to publish which voters they have purged from registries and provides new avenues for citizens to challenge those lists.

Accompanying the bill was the Election Infrastructure and Security Promotion Act of 2016, which would require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to treat voting systems as critical infrastructure. The bill would also bring together the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to promote studies on innovative election technology.