Chain of custody
According to experts, the only way to know if an electronic vote total has been hacked is for voters to have separately recorded their intended selections on paper and for jurisdictions to then use the paper in a manual audit or recount, the results of which can be compared to the electronic total.
But even manual audits or recounts can be “hacked” if the selections on the paper have been marked by a machine, rather than the voter’s own hand. And no matter how that paper is marked, manual audits and recounts can be gamed if the chain of custody between election night and the audit or recount has been compromised.
The perils of a non-transparent and insecure chain of custody are discussed here:
Transparent and secure chain of custody.
Regardless of what type of “paper” is used to detect and defend against hacking, jurisdictions must maintain a transparent and secure chain of custody from the moment votes are received — whether by mail or at the polling place — through the conclusion of all manual audits and recounts and beyond. Each step of the process must be carefully scrutinized to ensure that the chain-of-custody can be accounted for at all times. Any break in the chain will invite fraud.
Hand counting must be conducted publicly. If jurisdictions count paper ballots by hand, they must do so in public. Even hand marked paper ballots cannot prevent fraud if they are counted behind closed doors.
If jurisdictions count paper ballots with scanners, they must preserve and publish the digital ballot images from the scanners. All or most scanners on the market today automatically generate digital ballot images when they scan the paper ballots. Ballot images are an important part of both transparency and security because they allow citizens to conduct election audits at little expense and without a court order.
The images can also be used to confirm that the paper ballots used in an audit or recount have not been altered between the time they were scanned and the subsequent manual audit or recount. The images can thus help ensure that the chain of custody has not been compromised.
Although ballot images constitute public records under federal law, some election officials — such as former Ohio Secretary of State John Husted and Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill — choose to delete them. This must not happen in 2020. Maintenance of chain of custody records: Jurisdictions must maintain chain-of- custody records for all election equipment and paper ballots from the polling place or mail room through the resolution of any and all potential election challenges and thereafter. These records must be available to campaigns on request and to the public via public records requests. Again, nothing can prevent fraud if the chain of custody is broken.