SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Republican state senator Darren Bailey (R-Louisville) won praise from several of his social media followers for proposing the state transition to “paper ballots only,” with many of them voicing distrust in the security of elections.
“We were wondering when elaction (sic) fraud in Illinois was going to become a priority,” one commenter responded under Bailey’s post where he announced his proposal.
“My trust in voting machines is nill (sic),” another said.
Other comments said, “We have to have election integrity. IL currently does NOT!” and “Please continue to do whatever you can to stop election fraud.”
The first-term state senator who challenged Governor Pritzker’s Coronavirus executive orders in court launched a primary bid for governor last month.
One commenter suggested if the state doesn’t follow Bailey’s proposal, “this coming election will be stolen from you!!”
A month after November’s election, in a video posted to his Facebook page, Bailey called the idea that former President Trump should concede defeat to then President-elect Joe Biden “appalling.”
According to a recent CBS News/YouGov poll, only 31% of Republicans consider President Biden the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election.
While Bailey’s bill is amplifying concerns about election fraud among his supporters, the country’s renewed reliance on paper ballots or paper backup copies was the very reason Chris Krebs, the nation’s former top elections cybersecurity expert, told 60 Minutes in November that the 2020 election the “most secure in American history.”
“Paper ballots give you the ability to audit, to go back and check the tape and make sure that you got the count right,” Krebs told CBS News. “And that’s really one of the keys to success for a secure 2020 election. 95% of the ballots cast in the 2020 election had a paper record associated with it. Compared to 2016, about 82%.
“That gives you the ability to prove that there was no malicious algorithm or hacked software that adjusted the tally of the vote, and just look at what happened in Georgia,” he said. “Georgia has machines that tabulate the vote. They then held a hand recount and the outcome was consistent with the machine vote.”
Illinois already requires election officials to keep a permanent paper record of every ballot. While most voters use paper ballots, there are some exceptions where voters use technological assistance to pick their preferred candidates.
“There are some where they do use touchscreens, but that produces a paper receipt,” Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich explained. “There is a paper record for every single vote that’s cast in Illinois. Not all of them are with pen on paper, and I don’t know how that would work, because disabled people need to use screens.
“There are people who cannot write on a paper ballot,” he said. “Visually impaired people can use audio cues to guide them through a ballot on a touch screen. That wouldn’t be possible under this bill.”
“Voters who are disabled should be able to cast their ballots freely, fairly and safely,” state senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) said in a statement on Friday that appeared to respond to Bailey’s proposal. “Imagine going to a polling place where you have to climb stairs or fill out a paper ballot, and that’s something you simply cannot do. Just imagine how discouraging that is to a person.”
In addition to requiring hand-marked paper ballots, Bailey’s bill would also ban election authorities from using any internet-connected electronic device to tabulate the vote totals. However, the state’s election officials already use air-gapped tabulators that are “not programmed by machinery that is connected to the internet,” Dietrich said.
Congressman Rodney Davis, a Republican from the 13th District and the ranking Republican on the House committee that oversees American elections, warned against making modifications that might make the election counting system less efficient.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Davis said, “but I believe as long as we have a verified paper backup system that we will not limit technological advances that can help us speed up voting and help us speed up access in the future.”
Bailey did not return phone calls or text messages seeking a comment for this story. His campaign staff declined to make a spokesperson available for an interview about his proposal and requested to see written questions in advance.