Why do election experts oppose hand-counting ballots?

Washington: It takes longer than counting with machines, it’s less reliable, and it’s a logistical nightmare for U.S. elections.

A growing number of Republican lawmakers have pushed for switching to hand counts, an argument rooted in false conspiracy theories that voting systems were manipulated to steal the 2020 election. Though there is no evidence of widespread fraud or tampering with machines in 2020, some jurisdictions have voted to scrap machines and pursue hand counts instead this year.

Numerous studies — in voting and other fields such as banking and retail — have shown that people make far more errors counting than do machines, especially when reaching larger and larger numbers. They’re also vastly slower.

Though proponents of hand-counting often point to countries like France, which use it more or less successfully, that’s because they have simpler elections with just one race at a time. In the U.S., ballots are far more complicated, sometimes containing dozens of local, state, and federal races at a time.

Hand-counting of all ballots does happen in parts of the U.S. — in some small towns in the Northeast, for example — and it’s possible in small jurisdictions, said Gowri Ramachandran, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice.

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