To The Daily Sun,
A recent letter to The Laconia Daily Sun from a former supervisor of the checklist from Holderness suggests the use of paper checklists in New Hampshire elections are wasteful and outmoded. We suggest otherwise.
The writer said communities waste “tremendous amounts of paper because outdated checklists have to be destroyed and replaced with updated lists . . . (and) be revised and replaced after an election with new voter information, including changes in party. It will happen again before and after each election.”
Paper checklists are indeed used in our elections, and are generated rather quickly and efficiently by local officials from their computers as needed, using the state’s database of voters, known as ElectioNet.
This database of every voter in New Hampshire is maintained by the state and mandated by federal law.
It is the responsibility of local election officials, however, to keep this voter data up to date and available to the public before and after every election, and whenever paper checklists are otherwise required.
The use of paper checklists and paper ballots is outlined in state law. Not by the secretary of state.
Interestingly, states that have gone “paperless” in favor of expensive “tech savvy” technology, such as costly touch screen systems, are returning to paper because they are vulnerable to security breaches and their paper receipts, in models that have them, are impractical when the machines fail during an election, or when needed for a recount.
This month, the National Academies of Science released a report by a committee of computer science experts, election security scholars, and election officials from across the country. The report advises the use of paper in elections is critical.
“To protect the integrity and security of U.S. elections, all local, state, and federal elections should be conducted using human-readable paper ballots by the 2020 presidential election,” the academies reported in a September 6, 2018 press release.
In 2017, the Legislature passed a law to allow trials of electronic poll books in state elections, which would replace paper checklists at local polling places. Such technology has the potential to streamline voting in New Hampshire. These “e-poll books,” however, would be required to have “a ‘real-time’ download of voters who have checked in or registered on the day of the election... (and) have the ability to generate a paper voter checklist completely marked to reflect participation in the election up to the time of any system failure or malfunction.” This is consistent with the National Academies’ recommendations.
In 2017, the secretary of state hosted five e-poll book vendors who demonstrated their products before a committee of legislators, moderators, town clerks and other election workers. To date, no manufacturer, including those who attended the demonstration, are able to certify that their products can meet New Hampshire’s back-up data requirements. This committee has been studying the use of epoll books for over two years, in addition to work prior to this by the N.H. House Election Law Committee.
Several states have recently suffered serious disruptions in voting due to e-poll book failures. Most recently, in June 2018, voting in eight South Dakota counties experienced delays and confusion, according to news reports, after their e-poll books malfunctioned. It appears some left the polls before voting.
No technology can replace the transparency and dependability of a paper record when it comes to voting in an election. Voting is too important that it is not worth the cost of a few sheets of paper, or more than a few sheets if need be. Dozens of states that forgot that, are now beginning to remember.
Anthony B. S. Stevens
Assistant N.H. Secretary of State
N.H. Director of Elections
U.S. Election Assistance Commission Standards Board, 2006-present