A majority of states need to replace their aging election equipment, but the need is most severe in a dozen that are the most susceptible to tampering.

Mississippi is one of those dozen, election experts say. But no one in state government appears to be taking the risk seriously. Are they not paying attention?

Mississippi goofed a dozen years ago when it did its research on voting systems and opted to recommend that counties purchase touchscreen machines. It made matters worse when it allowed counties several years later to disconnect the external printers attached to them because election officials were tired of the hassle of dealing with them.

A paperless system, say cybersecurity experts, is an invitation to vote-stealing. Not only are the touchscreen machines vulnerable to tampering, but without a paper trail, there’s no way to catch such tampering when it happens. If the results from a precinct look suspicious, there’s not much that anyone can do about it, since there’s nothing to compare on paper to be certain that’s what’s recorded in the machine mirrors the voters’ choices.

A few states have acknowledged the problem and are doing something about it. According to an Associated Press story this past week, Delaware has set aside money to replace its paperless touchscreen machines. Seven other states are hoping to do the same, if they can figure out how to pay for it.

But Mississippi and three other states — Indiana, Tennessee and Texas — are mostly sitting on their hands, the AP reported. They’re apparently waiting for a disaster to happen before they wake up.

What little has occurred in Mississippi to address the problem has been tackled mostly at the local level. A few counties have bit the bullet and paid, largely with local funding, to replace their touchscreen machines with paper ballots read by optical scanners. There are, though, still more than 70 counties in the state, including both Leflore and Carroll counties, that have done nothing.

There is a little money the state has set aside for election equipment upgrades, but no one, including Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, seems to be pushing it. Hosemann hopes to be the next lieutenant governor, so this may not be top of mind to him. Whoever replaces him, though, should make this a priority.

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