Commonwealth Policy Center

The election is just weeks away and there are some who are saying that ballots should be hand counted. But is that the best way to get the most accurate vote count? According to Charles Stewart III, who directs the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, the answer is no. Stewart wrote in the Washington Post that “Computers — which ballot scanners rely on — are very good at tedious, repetitive tasks. Humans are bad at them.” Stewart conducted a study in 2018 that found ballot scanners to be more accurate than hand counts. He compared two statewide races in Wisconsin, where some localities counted ballots by hand and others used machines. In the recount of the 2016 presidential election he found that “hand-counted paper ballots were off by 0.18 percent while scanned ballots were off by 0.13 percent.”