Three months hence, Americans will cast their ballots in a most unusual presidential election. Emotions run high, but they always do. What has never run this high, at least since Reconstruction, is the smell of larceny in the air.

Can voting machines be hacked? Will judges be coerced into keeping polls open so that all the dead may vote? Can certain news organizations that have proved themselves thoroughly biased and corrupt be counted on to fairly report on or even mention irregularities? Will they strategically withhold results, colluding with their favored party? The list of potential concerns is endless.

Glenn Reynolds of has a good idea that will get no traction: paper ballots. His preface at USA Today: “As disruptive as the DNC e-mail release has been, there’s room for something much worse: A foreign government could hack voting machines, shut down election computers, or delete or alter voter registration information, turning Election Day into a snarled mess and calling the results into question regardless of who wins. … Voters have to trust that their own vote is recorded and counted accurately; they also have to trust that the overall count is accurate, and that only eligible voters are allowed to vote.”

That’s a tame version of what could happen. For a look at the worst-case scenario, check out this from John Robb at the Global Guerrillas blog.

Glenn is a law professor at the University of Tennessee, and this is his case for paper ballots: “When you vote electronically, the only data recorded is the vote itself. Compare that to a paper ballot where you mark an X next to the candidate’s name. When you cast a paper ballot, all sorts of other information is captured along with your vote: the color of ink you used, individual variations in handwriting, even the condition of the paper you’re writing on. Changing that across large numbers of ballots without being obvious is hard, and requires physical access to the ballots; doing it on a computer is a matter of a few keystrokes, and can be done from Minsk or Shanghai.”

Gotta love this analogy: “Paper ballots may seem old-fashioned, but an emphasis on computers just for technology’s sake reminds me about housewives in the 1950s who preferred canned vegetables to fresh ones because canned food seemed more modern. Just because a technology is newer doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better.”

Of course, paper ballots take longer to count (and recount). The country has become conditioned to fast election returns. But the potential for dirty dealing should trump (get it, hahaha) any of those factors. But it won’t. As you read this, the cheaters are plotting.