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Statement from BPC Task Force on Elections: Ballot Tabulators Are Essential to Election Integrity 

Today, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Task Force on Elections released the following statement on ballot tabulators being essential to election integrity:

Ballot tabulators are the latest targets of the campaign to undermine voter confidence in the name of election security. Recent efforts to limit the use of tabulators in at least six states and countless local jurisdictions have been based on the premise that hand counting ballots is the gold standard of accurate results. In reality, banning machine tabulation would undermine election integrity and sow distrust.

Tabulators boost the integrity of election systems nationwide by improving accurate and timely results and reducing resource demands on election offices. We encourage states and localities to redirect their focus on hand counts toward other, evidence-based integrity measures. The best way to enhance the legitimacy of election results is to pair the use of tabulators with robust tabulation audits of paper ballots after every election, as noted in the Task Force’s report Bipartisan Principles for Election Audits.

A tabulator is a specialized device that captures and counts voter selections from paper ballots. Tabulators are subject to extensive security protections and are certified before use, typically by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Nearly all election jurisdictions also conduct public logic and accuracy tests of tabulators before each election to ensure that they are properly programmed. If the use of tabulators were curtailed, staff and poll worker shortages would abound, costs would rise, and results would take longer and be less accurate.

Hand counting is time and resource intensive, often relying on bipartisan teams to count each ballot multiple times. Ballots typically include many races and ballot initiatives; while tabulators can accommodate multiple ballot questions with ease, each additional item in a hand count raises the propensity for error and increases the time and resources necessary to complete it.

Hand recounts of single races alone often take days and hundreds of additional workers to complete; hand counting full ballots with dozens of contests could take weeks or months. This would require a significant expansion in the number of election workers, which is untenable when jurisdictions nationwide already struggle to staff in-person voting operations.

Furthermore, extended results reporting timelines are precarious for voter trust as candidates can capitalize on these periods of uncertainty to cast doubt on the results and, in certain cases, preemptively declare themselves the winner. At this pivotal moment in our democracy, we must invest in shared democratic norms and values—not deplete them.

For an in-depth explanation of how ballot tabulators improve the accuracy, efficiency, and trustworthiness of election results, read BPC Elections’ explainer: How Ballot Tabulators Improve Elections.

This statement is unanimously endorsed by the BPC Task Force on Elections. The Task Force is a geographically and politically diverse group of 26 state and local election officials from 18 states devoted to making meaningful improvements to American elections. Members of the Task Force include: