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Voting infrastructure watch dogs praise Virginia’s election systems

Voters at a precinct in Richmond
Mallory Noe-Payne
Radio IQ
Voters at a precinct in Richmond

As Virginians vote today, they’ll use any number of voting machines and systems to help secure their vote, and one national voting security group says Virginia is at the forefront of secure elections.

“Virginia is mostly good news these days,” said Verified Voting President Pamela Smith.

Her group was founded in 2004 to advocate and track safe and accurate voting infrastructure across the country. She said Virginia’s systems, updated since a more significant law change in 2014, are among the most secure in the country.

She said voters in the Commonwealth will use voter-marked paper ballots state-wide. That means voters get a physical ballot, they mark the ballot themselves and check for accuracy, and then put that physical ballot in a scanner to get counted. This is a change from about a decade ago. But the system now, Smith said, allows for a high-quality, risk-limiting audit.

“That’s a fancy name," Smith admits. "It's a very robust kind of audit that limits the risk that the wrong person will be seated in office, that an error in the outcome will be found.”

This audit happens before elections are certified - the results you’ll hear Tuesday night are technically not certified, that happens about a week later.

Still, Smith said Virginia is “mostly all good,” what’s the remaining hiccup? Governor Glenn Youngkin’s decision to leave the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, and join a new multi-state agreement with other GOP-led states to cross check voter databases.

Smith said the switch means there’s less data for local poll workers to check voter rolls with.

“I don’t think it's going to mean suddenly there’s rampant voter fraud in Virginia, and there never was. I think it does make more work,” she said.

That means more work for poll workers.

Still, Smith says Virginians can vote with confidence today.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.