Most Kansas Citians casting ballots Tuesday will use a new technology designed to make voting easier while ensuring the integrity of the ballot.
The maker of the machines — Election Systems and Software — has faced criticism over the years. Experts continue to worry about improper interference with all electronic voting devices.
We’re concerned, too. There is evidence of foreign attempts to hack elections. Voting authorities must harden their record-keeping to prevent such interference.
That makes a paper record of individual votes essential. Kansas City’s new machines maintain that feature.
The city’s old optical-scan paper ballots, which used ovals filled in with a pencil, are gone. Instead, voters will make their choices on a touchscreen ballot-marking device.
After a voter makes his or her decisions, the machine prints a reviewable paper ballot. That ballot is then inserted into a separate machine that counts the votes.
The technology may save money by reducing the number of printed ballots election authorities will need. And because a vote is registered on one machine but counted by a separate machine, concerns about malfunctioning or hacked touchscreen devices are reduced.
Voting isn’t just about simplicity and speed. It’s also about fairness and accuracy. It’s absolutely essential that a voting apparatus include an independent paper record of votes in case a recount is needed or a machine appears to be compromised.
Some lawmakers in Missouri want to go even further. In March, the Missouri House passed a measure requiring paper ballots that can only be marked by hand. The state Senate may take up a similar measure soon.
The bills go too far. Hand-marked paper ballots may work well in rural areas, but they can lead to delays in cities, particularly in high-turnout elections. And in Kansas City, a hand-marked paper ballot is an option now.
Remember: Voters using the newest touchscreens can check their ballots before they’re counted. A ban on all touchscreen voting seems excessive.
While they’re at it, though, there are ways lawmakers could improve the voting process for all Missourians. The state still lacks no-excuse early voting, for example, which is ridiculous. More than three dozen other states extend that right to their voters.
Voter photo ID requirements suppress turnout. Legislators could fix that, too.
Kansas Citians will need patience at the polls Tuesday. And they can be confident their votes will be counted correctly.