The U.S. is in the midst of a historic moment of civic participation. And while protesters march in the streets and politicians wrangle with each other over the aftermath of an election, the people who actually run elections are quietly working on making their systems better. And those systems are, by all accounts, in need of updating. At the first-ever Global Election Technology Summit on May 17 in San Francisco, hosted by the Startup Policy Lab, a diverse group of people involved in elections and the technology used to run them gathered to talk about how they can improve the process for everyone involved. Here are three things they said the government could use right now to make elections better.
The machines that people vote with, and the software they run, are old. How old? Well, according to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, they are physically falling apart.
That’s not an exaggeration. The parts for some of the systems are so old the original manufacturers often don’t make them anymore. When election officials need new ones, they have to go on hunts for them. “Would you use a cellphone that’s 15 or 20 years old? You wouldn’t accept that,” Padilla said at the summit.
That’s largely because of a big funding package the U.S. Congress passed in the aftermath of the contentious 2000 election, where the design of ballots in Florida was a major issue. Election officials across the country jumped at the chance to buy new systems — and those systems are still standing today.