Two counties in Indiana now using paperless voting machines will each require an estimated $1.2 million worth of additional equipment to add a paper audit trail before the next presidential election.
A bill signed earlier this month by Gov. Eric Holcomb requires paper backups for all voting machines in the state by July 1, 2024.
Specifically, it requires the 59 counties that use MicroVote voting machines, which are all-electronic and don’t involve a paper ballot, to have “voter verifiable paper audit trail” – or vvpat –printers to retrofit all machines by July 1 of 2024.
The printers attach to the MicroVote Infinity voting machines with a cord, and contain a roll of paper tape, similar to cash register tape, that voters can view behind a glass window to verify their selections are correct before casting their vote.
In Allen County, the Director of Elections Amy Scrogham says it will cost about $1.2 million to buy vvpats for all of their MicroVote machines. The county has 715 machines, but only 160 vvpats.
“We haven’t used them yet,” she says of the vvpats, explaining she decided not to start using them for the first time during the 2020 election, fearing it would overburden election workers who were already dealing with pandemic-related issues.
In Hamilton County, Elections Administrator Beth Sheller said the last estimate from MicroVote was a cost of $2,230 for each vvpat printer and a case to carry it in. Hamilton County, she says, has 693 MicroVote voting machines and now has 150 vvpats.
To comply with the new law, it will cost $1.2 million for the additional vvpats, and probably $1.3 million total to include cases for all of the county’s vvpats, Sheller said.
Like Allen County, Hamilton County did not use any of its vvpats in the 2020 general election, with Sheller saying she wasn’t comfortable using the printers with some machines and not others, but the county did use them in 2019 for all early voting machines in the fall municipal elections.
She says counties have been told the purchase of the new machines will be covered by either the state or by federal money.
Vvpats are Indiana’s answer to what to do about voting machines that have no paper backups, which election security experts and the federal government have been urging states to replace as soon as possible, saying they aren’t secure.
A 2019 state law had given counties until 2029 to add vvpats for all machines, but House Enrolled Act 1116, which was authored by Rep. Timothy Wesco, moves this date up to July 1, 2024 and also says that counties must use all vvpats they have in the 2022 general election.
But it’s uncertain whether the vvpats will really improve election security in Indiana.
In a 2018 article on the website Freedom to Tinker, Princeton University computer science professor Andrew Appel called vvpats “an idea whose time has passed” saying the paper roll is “difficult for the voter to read” and that voters are often not instructed to check their selections on the paper before casting their votes. Appel also wrote the continuous paper roll comprises the secret ballot as poll workers can see the order of people who voted and so will be able to correlate this to the selections on the paper roll.
A Rice University study of vvpats using college students recounting two races from a spool of 120 ballots found the process “time consuming and prone to high error rates.”
Wesco did not respond to requests for a phone interview about the vvpats, but his office sent the following statement by email:
“The integrity of our elections has been and will continue to be a top priority. This new law helps increase the security of our voting process and upholds the principle of one person, one vote. This technology is already used in some counties and I, alongside county clerks across Indiana who testified in support, have confidence in voter verified paper audit trail systems. As chair of the House Elections and Apportionment Committee, I’ve worked hard to protect Indiana’s elections, from sheriff to senator, and will continue to do so during my time in the General Assembly.”
This article was originally posted on Cost to add paper trail for voting machines will be more than $1 million in some Indiana counties