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Counties test voting machines, new paper trail equipment ahead of general election

A new law now requires all counties to make sure at least 10 percent of their voting machines can create a paper record during this general election.

INDIANAPOLIS, Marion County — Ahead of early voting, which kicks off Oct. 11, counties are publicly testing their voting machines. 

A new law means some counties are also preparing to use new paper trail equipment.

Voting transparency has been a key issue, especially since the last presidential election. One way Indiana is working to be more transparent is to make sure there is a paper trail of every vote by 2024.

Some counties, like Marion County, already have a paper record for every vote. On Friday, election workers tested 5% of the county’s more than 2,300 voting machines.

Marion County’s machines spit out a paper ballot that voters can hold, read, and even correct if needed. That process happens before the piece of paper is put in a machine to be tabulated.

Supporters of paper trails like the hard copy record because it helps during an audit or if an election result is challenged.

"We had a recount earlier this year and that paper trail made it easier for us to conduct that recount,’ said Brent Stinson, deputy director Marion County Election Board.

During Friday’s public election machine test, he told 13News he supports the state’s move toward requiring a paper trail for every vote.

"We're in the business in making sure that people are confident that their vote counts, and this is just one step that does that,” he said.

Credit: WTHR

In Indiana, there are four voting machine vendors that counties can choose from. Marion County chose ES&S which includes the paper trail. 56 other counties use MicroVote machines which do not include the paper record.

Verified Voting tracks election equipment and reported nearly 41% of Indiana’s voting equipment could not produce a paper record for all voters during the primary election.

Indiana’s Secretary of State’s office told 13News 44 counties still needed paper trail equipment during the primaries, but that's slowly changing. A new law now requires all counties to make sure at least 10 percent of their voting machines can create a paper record during this general election.

By 2024, every voting machine must create a paper record. The counties with MicroVote machines use a VVPAT or Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail accessory.

Lawmakers say adding the accessory to the machines improves voting security, but Barbara Tully with Indiana Vote By Mail disagrees. She doesn’t like those types of voting machines because of cyber security concerns. She also doesn’t like the VVPAT paper record because it’s not tangible and sometimes difficult for the average voter to read.

“So, I'm not sure how that makes it any safer,” Tully said. “I think Indiana should have just gone to hand-marked paper ballots, which is the gold standard for people to have trust in elections."

A letter voicing those and other concerns with those machines were addressed in a letter sent to the secretary of state back in February. Tully’s name was part of the letter as well as the name of leaders from Free Speech For People, Indiana League of Women Voters and Verified Voting.

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