03:34 GMT04 April 2020
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    About a dozen states moved to replace their voting machines over the past year, in part due to fears of potential 'Russian hacking', even as multiple US intelligence reports to Congress have failed to uncover any evidence of Russian interference in changing votes or otherwise tampering with the vote in 2016.

    South Carolina’s Democratic primary voters will be the first in the country to try out new voting equipment which has left local residents and analysts divided into supporters and opponents, with the machines receiving praise for their paper backup system, but also sparking concerns over their untested nature.

    The new machines will be put into play amid continued controversy over the faulty app used by the Democrats in Iowa, with that software wreaking havoc on the caucuses earlier this month and leading to allegations of foul play from Bernie Sanders’ supporters.

    Unlike their predecessors, which featured an all-digital design, the new machines used in South Carolina include marking a paper ballot with a bar code confirming the chosen candidate’s name, which makes it possible to count them by hand long after the vote if necessary.

    Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidates Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, and former Vice President Joe Biden debate in the tenth Democratic 2020 presidential debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. February 25, 2020
    © REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNST
    Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidates Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, and former Vice President Joe Biden debate in the tenth Democratic 2020 presidential debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. February 25, 2020

    The new system has been praised for the paper trail it leaves, although some analysts have also expressed fears that it could lead to complications such as long lines owing to its untested nature. Furthermore, some observers have said that the digital-paper combination is not as safe as ordinary paper ballots, and still subject to potential hacking to make the machine print barcodes which don’t match voters’ choices.

    Thirteen other states beside South Carolina moved to replace their paperless voting equipment since 2016 amid security concerns, with Columbia spending some $51 million in 2019 to install the 13,500 new machines.

    The alleged Kremlin effort to ‘hack voting machines’ is one of a multitude of charges levied by Democrats against President Trump and Russia in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential race. However, accusers have yet to provide any firm evidence to back up their allegations. Earlier this month, a Senate Intelligence Committee report found no evidence of any Russian meddling in changing any votes or manipulating voting machines in 2016. A separate Senate Select Committee on Intelligence review half a year earlier similarly found no proof of any alleged Russian activities targeting “US election infrastructure.”

    Russia has long dismissed all claims related to alleged meddling in US elections, with officials saying that the country had neither the means nor the interest to do so.

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