Trust in Paper Ballots

Feb 28, 2018

By M​ichael DeFilippis
​​Director, Government Affairs

After the winner of the 2000 presidential election was declared and every American could properly define and identify a “hanging chad,” the nation collectively hoped that the election process would return to normalcy. Unfortunately, we now know it didn’t.

A system of electronic voting machines was implemented in order to prevent the inconveniences experienced in the 2000 election. Little did we know or expect, this change would be at the forefront of questioning the legitimacy of our entire electoral system.

These machines were originally intended to streamline our democratic process into the 21st century. However, every election in recent memory has had stories of voting machines malfunctioning, some being completely non-operational, others recording the wrong vote, and now the fear of them being hacked by foreign powers to change the outcome.

In an effort to restore voter confidence in our system, paper ballots are making a comeback. The Commonwealth of Virginia has already made the switch and the State of Georgia is considering doing the same. Many individuals, when given the option of using a voter machine or a paper ballot, choose the paper ballot for the simple reason that it is tangible.

Paper is trusted. An online survey of millennials found that respondents considered paper as more official (88 percent), trusted (82 percent), and safer and more secure (74 percent) as compared to digital documents.

The Boston Globe recently reported that state election officials are also considering “turning away from fully electronic systems.” The newspaper reported that officials, “… see paper as reassuring for voters: Physical ballots can be counted again if anything untoward happens to computerized tabulating systems.”

This is an example of when the latest technologies are not necessarily the right solution to every problem. A return to the paper ballot can complement digital technologies and help ensure the security of our election system.