Paper Ballots

How our Election Systems Held up Under a High Turnout Election

This year election administrators, many of whom were fielding new voting equipment for the first time, faced record turnout.  After the pervasive problems with the previous two presidential elections and the fears of more election problems, both real and imagined, voters across the political spectrum faced the election with deep skepticism about its fairness and integrity.  Today we give a brief overview of whether the expectations for the election were born out, and what election day tells us about where to focus reforms.


Paper ballots are absolutely necessary to restore citizens’ faith that our elections are fair, to ensure that votes are accurately cast and counted, and to establish a record upon which electoral disputes can be resolved.  Even the much-touted "voter verifiable paper audit trail" has been shown to be almost completely useless because voters rarely check the paper record to verify that their votes were accurately recorded.  And with new ballotmarking technology, states can easily allow access to disabled Americans and enable them to cast their votes in the same manner as all other voters.

Several states have recognized the importance of using paper ballots, even states that initially made significant investments in electronic voting machines.  Florida is such a state, and recently, Iowa moved to have an all paper ballot voting system in place for the November 2008 presidential election.

Voter Action
Brennan Center for Justice — Voting Technology
National Ballot Integrity Project
Voter Action — Counting the Votes: A Summary of State Actions
Pew Center on the States — Back to Paper
Voters Unite — DREs: A Failed Experiment

Election Integrity: How We Lost It and How States are Getting It Back

The 2000 presidential election propelled America's problems with our elections into the national spotlight in an unprecedented way.  Americans, night after night, watched news stories exposing the many problems that are routine in elections but that receive little attention: confusing ballots that lead people to mark their vote for the wrong candidate, voter suppression aimed at minorities through voter registration purges, and weary election officials trying to discern voters’ intent on ambiguously marked punch card ballots.