Louisiana Secretary of State says this year’s election secure without paper ballots

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Ardoin spoke Thursday evening at a panel hosted by LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communications. Panelist Susan Greenhalgh, policy advisor for the National Election Defense Coalition, said digital-only voting is the “most concerning” method from a security standpoint. Critics say Louisiana voting machines’ lack of a paper component goes against the national trend and violates best practices.

Greenhalgh said voting machines can malfunction and can be “maliciously infected” even if they’re not connected to the internet. Paper ballots allow voters to see for themselves that their vote was tallied correctly, while a “black box” voting machine does not, she said.

Paper backups also can be used to audit the electronic results, Greenhalgh added.

“We need to trust the process,” she said.

Ardoin said problems with paper ballots in the 2000 Bush-Gore presidential election led the federal government to push states toward electronic voting. He blamed the 2016 election, in which “some people didn’t like the outcome” and “perhaps believe it was stolen,” for recent distrust of electronic voting machines.

Ardoin said paper ballots have their own security issues.

“The more you use paper, the more you have the possibility of finding ballots,” he said, putting “finding ballots” in air quotes.

Ardoin’s office currently is working on a request for proposals for new voting machines. State procurement officials scrapped a 2018 contract award for new machines, saying the office failed to follow protocols meant to protect the integrity of the selection process.

Ardoin said he expects through the new RFP to find a “middle ground” between all-paper and all-electronic voting. The new system won’t be available for this year’s elections, forcing the state to rely on aging machines and leased equipment.

But Ardoin expressed confidence in Louisiana’s election security. He said he likes the current system, which has “served our state very well.”

He said the state’s machines have never been connected to the internet and leased machines are wiped clean and reprogrammed. Every machine is publicly tested from “top to bottom” with each parish’s board of election supervisors, he said.

“For the comfort of voters, I certainly agree that a paper component is important to the process,” he said.