Top voting machine manufacturer urges Congress to make paper records required

Top voting machine manufacturer urges Congress to make paper records required
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

The CEO of one of the top U.S. companies that manufactures voting machines called on Congress this week to pass legislation requiring the use of paper records for all voting systems, while pledging that his company would no longer sell machines without these records.

Tom Burt, the CEO of Election Systems & Software (ES&S), wrote in an op-ed for Roll Call that the need to pass election security legislation to restore voter faith in elections is “essential to the future of America.”

“If Congress can pass legislation that requires a paper record for every voter and establishes a mandated security testing program for the people making voting machines, the general public’s faith in the process of casting a ballot can be restored,” Burt wrote.

Burt pledged that ES&S would no longer sell voting machines that are “paperless” as the “primary voting device in a jurisdiction.” By paperless, Burt meant voting machines that do not print out a paper record of each vote, which can be audited following the election to make sure there was no interference in the vote.

The security of voting systems has been under increasing scrutiny since attempted Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections, during which cyber actors targeted the systems of at least 21 states.

This is the latest step by ES&S to ensure customers of the security of its machines, coming after the company submitted its machines to the Idaho National Laboratory for testing in April, which was done to ensure the “strength of equipment deemed critical infrastructure,” according to ES&S.

Two other top voting systems in the U.S., Dominion Voting Systems and Hart InterCivic, also told The Hill that they agree with the need for paper records of votes cast.

“All Dominion-manufactured systems produce paper and the company has never opposed requirements for paper records,” a spokesperson for Dominion said. “We’re on record at all levels — federal, state and local — in urging government support for helping customers that want to upgrade from paperless systems to more modern, paper-based solutions for the sake of auditing and resilience.” 

A spokesperson for Hart InterCivic told The Hill that the company has “always enthusiastically supported paper ballot options for voting systems,” adding that Hart is “very busy” helping voting jurisdictions around the U.S. to “move towards paper-ballot voting with the most secure, accessibly, auditable, intuitive and usable certified voting system technology and the best service and support in the industry.”

The comments from the three voting machine companies came after four top Senate Democrats sent letters to the groups in March asking about the security measures taken to protect machines from interference and criticizing the companies for a “lack of meaningful innovation” in securing systems.

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