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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Many Hoosiers have to vote without a paper trail

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More than half of jurisdictions in Indiana have voting equipment that doesn’t include a verified paper trail, making it difficult to detect security breaches or errors in the system.

The Indiana University Public Policy Institute published an analysis of the state’s reliance on paperless voting machines in early October. Researchers found 83% of Indiana counties used voting machines in 2016 that were at least eight years old, which increases the likelihood of glitches.

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Marion County is in a better position, though, with ballot-marking devices, where voters select candidates on a touch screen or other mechanical input. Rather than the voting machine recording the selection, it prints a piece of paper that is then scanned.

Most counties use direct-recording electronic voting machines, which store selections in the computer’s memory. A few counties also use a verified paper trail to back up that system, but most don’t.

Some counties use hand-marked paper ballots and have voting machines for accessibility.

Indiana passed a law in 2019 that requires all counties to have a paper trail by 2030, but Joti Martin, a policy analyst at the Public Policy Institute and one of the researchers who worked on the analysis, said 10 years is too long to wait.

“That’s a lot of elections and two [more] major elections,” she said. “That’s a long time. Hopefully jurisdictions after this election can plan for themselves.”

Some jurisdictions have made the move to a paper trail on their own, but funding has been an issue. The Indiana Secretary of State requested $75 million in 2018 to update the state’s voting machines with paper trail systems, but that amount was reduced to $6 million because of other funding priorities. 

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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