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US Elections Must Go Back to Paper — Report

US voting infrastructure should return to paper ballots by the next presidential election, according to a major new report from the non-profit The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Commissioned by the non-profit Carnegie Corporation of New York and charity the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the two-year report concluded that online voting apparatus is too exposed to potential compromise.

Citing Russian infiltration ahead of the 2016 presidential election, it warns that “aging equipment and a lack of sustained funding” have further undermined efforts to maintain resilience.

Ideally by the mid-terms later this year but certainly by the next presidential election in 2020, all US local, state and federal elections should return to human-readable paper ballots, the report argued. Not only this, but marked ballots should also not be sent over the internet or any connected network, as no technology can currently guarantee their “secrecy, security, and verifiability.”

These ballots could be made and counted by hand or machine, but any systems which don’t allow for independent auditing should be removed, the report continued.

It also called for “risk limiting” audits to be brought in prior to certification of results — by hand-examining several hundred ballots, auditors can use these to quickly understand if there has been any foul play.

Election officials should also routinely assess the integrity of voter registration databases, and states using electronic “pollbooks” should have back-up plans in place, the report added.

“This is a critical time for our country,” said Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University and co-chair of the committee that conducted the research.

“As a nation, we need to take collective action to strengthen our voting systems and safeguard our democracy. In addition, the nation’s leaders need to speak candidly and apolitically about threats to election systems. The American people must have confidence that their leaders place the larger interests of democracy above all else.”

A Venafi poll of 400 global IT security pros last month revealed that 93% believe election infrastructure is at risk of attack and 81% claim hackers will target key data as it is transmitted from local polling stations to centralized points

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