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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Paper trail should help Indiana voters feel confident their votes are secure

Just over a year ago, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced the start of a public awareness campaign emphasizing “why voters should feel confident their vote is secure” in our state.

“In Indiana, the security of our voting systems is of the utmost importance,” she said.

“Since 2016, voters have heard about the threat of foreign actors interfering in our elections,” Lawson wrote last September with Chris Krebs of the Department of Homeland Security in an op-ed piece in The Indianapolis Star. “What they haven’t heard is that election officials and the federal government are working tirelessly behind the scenes to protect our elections, and there is no evidence any votes were changed in 2016.”

Lawson said her office has implemented several modernization and cybersecurity measures since 2016. And we believe Indiana voters should be pleased with the latest step in assuring secure voting — the investment of $10 million authorized by the State Budget Committee Friday to help provide paper trails for direct record electronic voting machines used in most of the state.

Normally, counties pay the costs of investing in election equipment. This is reportedly the first time the state has done so. As a result, 10 percent of Indiana’s electronic machines will get paper audit trails.

A demonstration for the media in Indianapolis recently showed a device called a VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trails) attached to an electronic election machine that allows the voter to view their electronic vote on paper and then correct it if they find a mistake.

“I can go back, I can void that vote, and I can say, ‘Yes, that’s what I want to do,'” Lawson said in the demonstration.

“I know that this machine recorded my vote the way I intended,” she explained, “and I can cast my vote and then that scrolls up so the next voter cannot see how I voted.”

Federal law does not permit voters to take paper proof of voting with them from the polls.

Every electronic voting machine in the state will be required to have a VVPAT by 2029, but Lawson said it’s possible individual counties will take the initiative to get them on their own sooner.

The Journal Gazette reported that Allen County is one of 60 of the 92 Indiana counties that use direct record electronic voting machines and that there is already a paper trail in the back of the machines, which is not currently visible to voters. But the VVPATs will be added to those machines.

The secretary of state’s office and the DHS have worked together through cyber and physical security assessments, information sharing, training and exercises to make Indiana’s election infrastructure more resilient than ever.

“We’re … only as good as our understanding of the threat,” Lawson and Krebs wrote last year, “and information sharing is a key tool for staying ahead of the bad guys.”

In another recent development locally, the Allen County Commissioners on Sept. 14 approved an agreement with Lawson’s office and FireEye Inc. for a cybersecurity system for elections, part of a program for all of Indiana’s 92 counties.

Allen County was picked to be one of eight pilot counties where the program will be deployed as of Tuesday, according to the county’s director of technology, Ed Steenman. He said the program features an appliance that will be installed on Allen County’s network “to watch for illegal, malformed traffic” at no cost through 2022.

News-Sentinel.com lauds the many efforts to protect the integrity of our votes in Indiana and stands behind the state’s decision to invest $10 million into the newest security measure, VVPATs, which we believe will help improve voter confidence at the polls.

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