Many voters are raising questions about electronic voting machines after an obscure race for parish sheriff in northwest Louisiana led to a seemingly improbable result: The Democratic candidate topping the Republican candidate by a single vote.
That’s right: Henry Whitehorn (D) received 21,621 votes and John Nickleson (R) got 21,620.
John Nickelson, the Republican candidate, announced on social media that he has requested a recount.
“This extraordinarily narrow margin … absolutely requires a hand recount to protect the integrity of our democratic process, and to ensure we respect the will of the people,” John Nickelson, the Republican candidate who trailed by one vote in last week’s election for Caddo Parish Sheriff, posted on social media Wednesday.
The Associated Press, apparently feeling it is now safe to question election integrity in the distant aftermath of the contested 2020 election, provided context on the race.
“The tight race shines a spotlight on Louisiana’s recount process and its outdated voting machines, which do not produce an auditable paper trail that experts say is critical to ensuring election results are accurate,” the Associated Press reported on the race. “States’ recount abilities have proven to be exceedingly important, especially following the 2020 presidential election when multiple battleground states conducted recounts and reviews to confirm President Joe Biden’s victory.”
During the recount on Monday only absentee ballots will be counted again and checked for irregularities. However, they only account for around 17% of the total votes cast in the runoff election. Absentee ballots are mailed in and are the only paper trail available under Louisiana’s current voting system.
In the case of paperless in-person voting, a recount would be equivalent to pushing the refresh button.
“(Election officials) test the machines beforehand and they test the machines afterwards, so it’s not blind faith going into this. … There are protections in place,” David Becker, a former attorney in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division who works with election officials through the nonprofit Center for Election Innovation & Research claimed.
“That said, a recount of a paperless vote is essentially the equivalent of hitting the button again. … You’re basically getting a report on the tabulation again.”
But that’s not very reassuring to millions of voters who are tired of watching close races go to their nonpreferred candidate under dubious circumstances.
Louisiana votes with paperless touch screen devices that were bought in 2005. Previously the most advanced voting technology, they are now only utilized statewide in Louisiana.
Election authorities, notably Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, have argued that the state’s elections are secure and that checks and balances are in place to assure election integrity. However, the electronic voting machines and their lack of a paper trail have frequently been criticized.
The ability to recount ballots was critical in the 2020 election, when numerous battleground states, including Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, undertook recounts or comprehensive reviews of the election results.
Nearby in Georgia, election authorities recertified the state’s presidential election results after Donald Trump demanded a recount of the nearly 5 million ballots cast.
Georgia, which had employed paperless voting machines comparable to Louisiana’s for two decades, acquired a new Ballot Marking Device system soon before the election. The present method, which is used by nearly every in-person voter in Georgia, produces a paper ballot with a human-readable summary and a QR code, which is a form of barcode that is scanned by a scanner to tally votes.
“Can you imagine what would have happened in Georgia if they had still had digital voting machines in 2020?” Becker asked.
Yet Georgia is still being exposed for election security flaws, despite Ballot Marking Devices.
Judge Amy Totenberg has issued a decision concurring there is sufficient reason to believe that the electronic voting machines used by the State of Georgia have substantial flaws.
The District Court Judge found that there is sufficient cause to believe that there may be “cybersecurity deficiencies that unconstitutionally burden Plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and capacity to case effective votes that are accurately counted.”
Totenberg scheduled a bench trial for January 9, 2024, which entails the absence of a jury. Nevertheless, she acknowledged that a compromise might be possible if the state legislature were to take action.
“The Court cannot wave a magic wand in this case to address the varied challenges to our democracy and election system in recent years, including those presented in this case,” she wrote. “But reasonable, timely discussion and compromise in this case, coupled with prompt, informed legislative action, might certainly make a difference that benefits the parties and the public.”
Critically, the court denied that criticism of security flaws with Georgia’s voting machines are based purely on “conspiracy theories.”
“The Court notes that the record evidence does not suggest that the Plaintiffs are conspiracy theorists of any variety. Indeed, some of the nation’s leading cybersecurity experts and computer scientists have provided testimony and affidavits on behalf of Plaintiffs’ case in the long course of this litigation,” the judge’s footnote remarked.
Totenberg scheduled a bench trial to determine if the voting machines’ lack of security violated Georgians’ constitutional rights for January 9, 2024.