In practice, these changes make electronic “vote rigging” on the scale necessary to shift the outcome of a statewide election highly infeasible, especially when the margin of victory is tens of thousands of votes. Multiple hand recounts in Georgia, unsurprisingly, turned up no evidence of digital shenanigans.
From the November 2020 issue: The election that could break America
Meanwhile, eight states—Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Jersey, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee—still use DRE machines with no paper trail, in at least some precincts. You probably haven’t heard any vote-rigging conspiracy theories concerning those states lately, because none of them is a battleground state, and Trump comfortably won all of them but New Jersey. In other words, voter anxiety about election security is being stoked in states that have behaved responsibly, while states that have been less responsive to expert advice get a free pass, because highlighting their shortcomings does nothing to advance a partisan narrative.
In an extraordinary display of chutzpah, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton mounted a court challenge impugning the integrity of the results in more secure swing states, egged on by several red states that have similarly failed to fully adopt auditable paper trails. It may not have occurred to Paxton that, had his long-shot lawsuit succeeded, the precedent established would give other states ample grounds to mess with Texas.
Numerous bills that would have imposed federal standards for voting-machine security have been floated over the past few years, only to die in the GOP-controlled Senate. There were legitimate reasons to object to certain particulars of these bills: Many lawmakers had qualms that they went too far in usurping state authority over election procedures, or included superfluous mandates, such as requiring that ballots be printed on recycled paper. But another factor likely played a role in dooming these proposals: Until election-rigging conspiracy theories became useful to the Trump campaign, voicing concern about election security was perceived, at least by the incumbent president himself, as a tacit attack on the legitimacy of his 2016 victory.
It’s not just states that have been wrongly tarred: The voting-equipment maker Dominion Voting Systems has been at the heart of the most lurid conspiracy theories, including bizarre and obviously false claims that the company’s software was designed for vote stealing at the behest of Venezuelan communists. These claims have persisted even though most swing-state counties using Dominion machines were won by Trump, and many areas won by Biden use equipment and software from other vendors. Although no voting technology is perfect, Dominion’s has been rigorously tested and certified—during the Trump administration!—to meet federal security standards by the United States Election Assistance Commission. There is, in short, no reason to believe Dominion machines are significantly less secure than their major competitors’. Yet with many Trump supporters now convinced that Dominion equipment is compromised, some Republican state legislators have begun echoing the president’s conspiratorial rhetoric. If voter distrust persists, some of these states might well feel pressured to squander millions more in taxpayer dollars replacing machines that are virtually brand new.