Legislation would require paper ballots for future elections in Ohio

An Akron lawmaker wants Ohio to start using paper ballots for its future elections.

House Bill 204 would prohibit counties from acquiring so-called direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines or any marking devices or automatic tabulating equipment that does not use a paper ballot.

“There are many benefits to switching to paper ballots, and Ohio should consider switching to them,” state Rep. Tavia Galonski, D-Akron, said in testimony to the House State and Local Government Committee. “In a time where there are fears of voting machine hacking, election experts are advocating for off-line voting.”

“For one, paper ballots are immune to computer hacking, there is no need for backup ballots to perform audits, and they are much cheaper than computer ballots,” Galonski said.

According to Ballotpedia.org, 18 states use paper ballots. Other states used a combination of voting methods, including DRE machines with and without a paper trail.

Democrats, in particular, have made election security a priority in the wake of the 2016 election.

In an unrelated move, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, joined 37 senators to introduce the Election Security Act, which proponents say aims to combat foreign interference and improve election security. It would, in part, require states to use paper ballots and establishes cybersecurity standards for voting system vendors.

“Ohio counties are investing in new voting machines and the federal government needs to do its part to help Ohio reduce threats from foreign interference and remain vigilant to protect the integrity of our elections,” Brown said in a statement.

Ohio uses paper ballots and voting machines that provide a paper record, according to a February 2018 report from the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy organization. The organization said the state’s “post-election audit requirements are lacking important criteria.”

“To improve its overall election security, Ohio should immediately update its post-election audit requirements to ensure that they adequately test the accuracy of election outcomes with a high degree of confidence,” the organization said in its report.

If the Legislature approves House Bill 204, counties could still purchase electronic machines if they are the same as those used before the bill goes into effect.

“This bill is not just for constituents in Northeast Ohio, but for every voter and soon to be voter in the state of Ohio,” Galonski said, echoing the statements of other Democrats at the national level and in states nationwide. “We must do everything we can to ensure and protect the integrity of our elections and our democracy.”

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