Elections: America Needs Paper Ballots and Manual Hand-Counts

by Paul S. Gardiner – March 10, 2021

In the aftermath of the November 2020 national election and for reasons discussed herein, tens of millions of Americans no longer trust the manner in which elections and voting take place in their nation. Unless corrective actions are taken to overcome this sentiment, the American constitutional republic with its unique system of federalism may not long survive. Fair and honest elections are the bedrock of the republic and without them, continuous one-party rule will most likely occur eventually leading, as history attests, to totalitarianism and a tremendous loss of individual freedom.

This article maintains that the best and perhaps only way for Americans to believe and trust that their votes for political candidates are accurately cast and honestly counted is to temporarily reinstitute the use of paper ballots and manual hand-counting of these ballots. As discussed below, electronic voting machines and software continue to suffer from various intrusive actions that either negate the ballots of voters and/or conflate the results of ballet tallies in favor of a particular candidate.

Politicians and officials who certify that electronic voting systems are safe and free from hacking and other fraudulent or criminal intrusive actions, either intentionally or unintentionally mislead the American public. In this regard, the following testimonies are instructive:

1) Ronald L. Rivest, PhD, Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in a November 28, 2016 affidavit in support of Jill Stein’s Petition for a hand recount of all ballots in Wisconsin, stated:

“For our democracy to work well, election systems should produce the best and most convincing evidence that the announced election outcomes are correct… We have learned the hard way that almost any computer system can be broken into by a sufficiently determined, skillful, and persistent adversary. There is nothing special about voting systems that magically provides protection against attack…Voting system software may be maliciously designed, may contain bugs, or may be changed or replaced at some point during the pre-election roll-out of equipment…”

2) IEEE Spectrum by Mark Anderson, “DEFCON Hackers Found Many Holes in Voting Machines and Poll Systems,” spectrum.ieee.org, Aug. 3, 2017

“Vendors and election jurisdictions generally state that they do not transmit election results from precincts via the Internet, but they may transmit them via a direct modem connection. However, even this approach may be subject to attack via the Internet, especially if encryption and verification are not sufficient. That is because telephone transmission systems are themselves increasingly connected to the Internet…and computers to which the receiving server may be connected, such as through a local area network (LAN), may have Internet connections. In fact, organizations may be unaware of the extent of such connections.”

3) Dr. Andrew Appel, professor of computer science at Princeton University, states that ballot-marking devices (such as Dominion Voting Systems equipment), like any computer, can be hacked. “If hacked, they can systematically change votes from what the voter indicated on the touch screen when printed on the paper ballot; few voters will notice, and those that notice have only the mitigation that they might be able to correct their own ballots, not their neighbors; and finally, recounts or audits will see only the fraudulently marked paper,”

Thus, until such time that the technology of electronic voting advances to the point where a broad consensus of expert opinion believes (after thorough and intensive testing, etc.) that the technology can be made reliably unhackable and secure, reverting to the use of paper ballots and hand-counting of ballots is a sensible and necessary course of action. Regarding the use of paper ballots, Dr. Rebecca Mercuri at the Engineering School of the University of Pennsylvania, states “Paper ballots increase voter confidence by offering the best in terms of reliability, usability and recountability, as well as being highly cost-effective.”

During and after the November 2020 election, tens of millions of Americans learned about various voting and ballot tallying irregularities stemming from the use of electronic voting machines, particularly the Dominion Voting System (DVS) equipment and software. Americans learned  how this technology is much too complex to secure (DVS’s 1.5 million lines of code is far above the U.S. Election Assistance Commission Voluntary Voting System Guidelines for transparency and simplicity). Further, the DVS technology permits 1) adjudication of cast ballots (a third party interprets the voter’s will); 2) database corruption (SQL injection confirmed in an Arizona review); 3) access to ballots via laptops operated by third parties; and (4 foreign access to ballots causing manipulation of votes.

Realistically, the majority of state legislators (politicians) will be reluctant, perhaps very reluctant, to revert to using paper ballots and ballot hand-counts, even on a temporary basis. But as described above, such a change is now essential to instill faith and trust in the election and voting process in the hearts and minds of tens of millions of Americans.

It is believed that the most effective way to reinstitute paper ballots and hand-counts in the different states is for citizens to form a highly vocal, broad-based coalition of organizations and individuals who will effectively lobby their state legislators to take the necessary actions to make paper ballots and hand-counts a reality, even as early as the 2022 national elections.

No doubt the hand-counting of ballots in each voting precinct (with observers present) will require extra time and effort to accomplish. But this is a relatively small price to pay to assure the American public that every possible step is being taken to accurately and honestly count each and every vote. If America’s Founders were alive today, they would undoubtedly agree.

Paul S. Gardiner is a retired Army Officer, Vietnam veteran, and avid lover of America. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Alabama, and the United States Army War College.