The company describing itself as the nation's biggest provider of election equipment says it's not going to sell any more paperless voting systems.
It's a symbolically important step in the drive to secure the 2020 election against fraud and foreign hacking. But the company, Election Systems & Software, wants Congress to take even more important steps: mandate paper-trail balloting nationwide and set higher security standards for all machines used in federal elections.
In an opinion piece in Roll Call on Tuesday, CEO Tom Burt urged lawmakers to "pass legislation establishing a more robust testing program—one that mandates that all voting-machine suppliers submit their systems to stronger, programmatic security testing conducted by vetted and approved researchers."
The odds of that happening appear very slim. Several bills to boost election security are being pushed by Democrats, and some are being promoted by Republicans, too. But any that get through the Democratic House look to be blocked by GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate.
That is in part because he opposes more federal control over elections, which in the main are the province of state and local officials, and in part because President Trump despises any effort to suggest that Russian interference tainted his election.
Electronic voting machines that don't generate any paper trail became popular after butterfly ballots and hanging chads sullied the incredibly close 2000 presidential result in Florida. Congress gave away a pit of federal money to jurisdictions willing to go paperless, turning aside warnings that the new computerized systems could be readily hacked.
Cybersecurity experts have now persuaded many places to adopt touchscreen systems with paper receipts or color-the-oval paper ballots that are read by optical scanners – then retained for use in a recount or to rebut allegations the machine count was manipulated or wrong.
One provision in a multifaceted election security bill proposed in the Senate by Republican Jim Lankford of Oklahoma and Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a presidential candidate, would deliver millions of dollars in subsidies to the states for phasing out the remaining paperless systems. It also would compel states to conduct more frequent audits of their results.
But the bill has stalled because of the Trump administration's opposition. That has prompted Lankford to consider changes that might win the White House over, but those ideas are threatening to have Klobuchar and other Democrats walk away.
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RepresentUs acquired 8,000 signatures on a petition asking Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to keep working on a "revolving door" bill. Paula Barkan, Austin chapter leader of RepresentUs, handed the petition to Brandon Simon, Cruz's Central Texas regional director, on July 31.
Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?
To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."
The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.
The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.
Sixty percent of young adults in the United States believe other people "can't be trusted," according to a recent Pew Research survey, which found that younger Americans were far more likely than older adults to distrust both institutions and other people. But adults of all ages did agree on one thing: They all lack confidence in elected leaders.
While united in a lack of confidence, the cohorts disagreed on whether that's a major problem. The study found that young adults (ages 18-29) were less likely than older Americans to believe that poor confidence in the federal government, the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups were "very big problems."