Politics, Top Stories

Elections 2022: Ballot paper vs voting machine row continues

election - vote

By Kiran N. Kumar

Most states have moved to hybrid voting systems since the 2000 US presidential election controversy

The 2000 US presidential election that resulted in Republican George W. Bush’s victory over Democrat Al Gore by a few hundred votes after a month long court drama over disputed votes shook election officials’ confidence in paper ballots.

Since then most states have moved to hybrid voting systems where voters can make their selections electronically and also produce a paper record that can be scanned by another device.

When former President Donald Trump and his allies in 2020 made claims of electoral fraud, Georgian officials were quick to hand-count paper ballots and confirm Joe Biden had indeed won the state.

With questions of malfunction and tampering with votes cast or hacking of electronic voting machines failing to subside in any election, several states have already shifted to paper ballot or hybrid system, which enables them to give out results quickly and yet verify physically when allegations of fraud surface.

READ: Midterm Elections 2022: Why are pre-polls still inaccurate? (November 2, 2022)

Currently, as per the data from non-profit Verified Voting, nearly 70% of registered voters live in jurisdictions that primarily use hand-marked paper ballots and 23% in jurisdictions that use the hybrid method.

However, the push toward paper ballots does not mean that machines are disappearing entirely as they help tabulate quickly. Despite Trump’s claims that tabulators in many areas in 2020 manipulated to flip votes to Biden, election officials are averse to ditching machines entirely.

Evidently, claims of election fraud have sown widespread mistrust in elections that the ABC/Ipsos poll in January found only about 20% of the American public trust the election system.

To bolster the public confidence in 2022 midterms, verified voting suggests handing out emergency paper ballots to voters when voting technology fails.

READ: Will AI turn the tide in midterm elections? (November 1, 2022)

“We have confidence that election officials have their plans for November, but many of these recommendations are useful during poll worker training,” said Pam Smith, president and CEO of Verified Voting. “From an election protection standpoint, these are steps that can make a difference when emphasized to front-line workers who help run our elections.”

Outcome predictable?

Irrespective of voting machines or paper ballots, historically, the sitting president’s party nearly always loses House seats in the midterms.

Since World War II, the president’s party has on average lost 29 seats House seats in each incumbent’s first midterm election, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The only exception was when George W Bush saw Republicans gain eight House seats in 2002 following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

In 2022 midterms too, Republicans are confident that the usual pattern will repeat but the key holds in how Democrats turnout for voting.

READ: Health care, jobs, economy top issues for Asian American voters (October 24, 2022)

Democrats are equally confident that defending just 14 Senate seats where Republicans are defending 21 is going to tilt the balance in their favor.

As per the recent NBC News poll, 46% each back Democrats and Republicans holding out the need for both parties pushing the voter to the voting station. Otherwise, until the last vote is counted, the chaos of midterms will continue.

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