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Paper Ballots, Secure Voting The Focus Of Election Symposium At Penn State

Two people discussing voting machine
Anne Danahy

Patrick McDaniel  said elections in the United States have historically been fair and secure, but there are challenges.

McDaniel is the Weiss Professor of Information and Communications Technology at Penn State and one of the organizers of the Symposium on Election Security, held Monday at the Penn Stater Conference Center. At a time when the integrity of elections is in the headlines, the conference drew experts and national leaders in election security.

McDaniel said the more that can be done by the 2020 election, the better. That includes having voter-verified paper ballots used in all states.

“So if there’s some dissension, some argument after the fact, that you can go back to those physical pieces of paper and try to sort out what actually happened," he said. "And that’s as much for keeping people’s peace of minds as for securing the elections.”

Pennsylvania is in the process of working with counties to update voting systems so they include voter-verified paper ballots. That is slated to happen in time for the 2020 presidential election.

Candice Hoke, co-director of the Center for Cybersecurity and Privacy Protection in Cleveland, said paper ballots are important, but they aren’t everything.

“We need to have audits of how the voting technology has operated, whether the machinery is actually counting votes accurately and reporting them accurately — and we have models for doing that," she said. "And we have to have appropriate technology that can assure that.”

If discrepancies are found, Hoke said, a recount would need to happen.

Anne Danahy has been a reporter at WPSU since fall 2017. Before crossing over to radio, she was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, and she worked in communications at Penn State. She is married with cats.
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