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Why Critics Say Indiana Isn't Doing Enough To Beef Up Election Security

Brown County residents try out new voter machines in the brown county public library

Hoosiers test out new voter machines equipped with a paper trail. (Sean Hogan WFIU/WTIU News)

A big upgrade of voting machines is taking place around the state, but it won’t be finished before the 2020 election, when Hoosiers will choose a president, governor and other down ballot candidates.

Some Hoosier voters worry their votes aren't protected, and critics say a larger effort to safeguard votes is needed from the state.  

There are two types of machines for counties to use during elections in Indiana: Direct Record Electronic (DREs) and Optical Scans, which utilize a paper ballot.

Valerie Warycha, the Indiana Deputy Chief of Staff says the state is providing four DRE counties -- Bartholomew, Boone, Hamilton, and Hendricks -- with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPAT) by 2020. A VVPAT is a device that attaches to the machine and prints out a paper copy of an individual vote that can be reviewed in the course of an election audit.

A law that went into effect in July requires all counties to use voting machines that provide a paper trail audit by the beginning of 2030.

READ MORE: State Approves First Voter-Verified Paper Trail For Electronic Voting Machines

Brown County Circuit Court Clerk Kathy Brown says the new technology will give voters peace of mind when they cast their ballots.

“By allowing them to go back and have some kind of paper trail, I think is going to make things easier, and they’re going to feel more secure and confident that their vote has counted,” she says.

Despite the efforts of state officials to protect the integrity of the election, some critics say it’s not enough.

Chair of Indiana University’s cyber security program Scott Shackleford says even though several counties are already using this technology, waiting another decade to make it mandatory is risky -- especially after evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“There was a proof of concept that was done in 2016, so now any country and group that would like to similarly interfere, has a game plan," Shackleford says.

He says hackers could focus their efforts on a few swing counties to influence an election.

Indiana’s new cybersecurity law requires counties to ensure the security of its polling location.

READ MORE: Lawson Assures Hoosiers Their Votes, Information Are Safe

In addition to the law, the legislature approved $10 million in next year’s budget for cybersecurity, but Democratic State Senator JD Ford says that amount that falls far below what is needed.

“With everything that’s going on in our country right now, in regards to election security, I think that’s a request we could have easily provided, but unfortunately we took a pass on it," he says.

Ford lobbied for more money but the request that was turned down by the republican majority.

Meanwhile, Ford is now considering his own legislation that would beef up security at the polls.

“Nothing else we do in this building matters, if we can’t protect the election making sure our vote matters,” he says.

Shackelford says fear of election meddling shouldn’t deter Hoosiers from voting.

“Frankly, the goal of these efforts is to undermine trust and undermine confidence in our election systems. When people don’t turn out they’re letting those hackers win," he says.

Shackelford says the state’s effort to curb voter hacking is a step in the right direction.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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