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Voting Machine Accuracy

Many checks exist to ensure that voting machines count ballots correctly and produce accurate election results.

Published: March 1, 2024
View the entire Election Rumors in 2024 series

Fact: Many checks exist to ensure that voting machines accurately count ballots. 

Election officials know that there is no such thing as an invulnerable technological system, which is why they deploy a series of safeguards and checks to ensure an accurate count. While each state’s procedures are different, these are among the most common: voting machines are certified to federal and state security standards before being deployed, they are tested before voters cast their ballots to make sure they are working properly, and they are audited again after elections to confirm they correctly counted ballots and produced an accurate total. Importantly, 99 percent of voters live in jurisdictions where they can cast a ballot with a paper record of their vote, which can be used to confirm the electronic total is correct. 

Rumor: Voting machines are routinely hacked to change election results.

Conspiracy theories about hacked voting machines have proliferated since the 2020 presidential election. Election deniers have pushed for jurisdictions to abandon voting machines altogether and hand-count all ballots despite evidence showing that this method leads to longer, more costly, and less accurate vote counts. Genuine security concerns about voting machines have also contributed to this narrative, with opportunistic political actors using the possibility of vulnerabilities in election technology (as is the case with any technology) to claim, without evidence, that voting machines have been exploited to alter election results. A challenge to the use of voting machines in Georgia has revived this rumor in recent weeks. Unfortunately, many of the related soundbites and social media posts lack context about the security measures that are in place to prevent, catch, and recover from any incursions into or failures of voting systems. 

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We worked with Swayable, a research software platform that measures how effectively media content changes opinions, to determine what messages helped voters best understand the facts.

Suggested counter-message based on our testing:

  • Election officials audit voting machines at every step to make sure votes are recorded correctly, and they maintain a ballot chain of custody. We would know if voting machines were hacked.

The message above was found to be most effective in communicating the facts, though differences exist by region and demographic group. See Swayable’s dashboard to examine more detailed results, including other messages tested.