While the midterm elections appear to have avoided any major problems with foreign interference, voters and poll monitoring groups across the country reported hours-long lines, unexpected delays in opening polling places, and technical issues with voting machines. “We received reports quite quickly on election day of a number of polling sites in Harris County, which is the home of Houston, of polling sites not only not being open at 7 a.m. but of significant delays,” says James Slattery, senior staff attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, which won a court order keeping polls open late at locations with delayed openings. … Experts say it’s not surprising that technical problems popped up at polling places—after all, many states and local jurisdictions are still running systems purchased under the federal Help America Vote Act, a law passed by Congress in 2002 in wake of the disputed 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
“We have been seeing voting machine malfunctions across the country in this election because many, many jurisdictions in the United States have voting systems that are old and outdated,” says Jamila Benkato, counsel at the nonprofit group Protect Democracy. “It’s like using a laptop from 2002 in the year 2018.”
Replacing old election equipment is ultimately a “matter of national security,” she argues, since many older systems aren’t just subject to mechanical failures but also to cybersecurity threats. “We think that replacing and upgrading these systems is a fundamental necessity if we want to have a fully functioning democracy,” she says.
The trouble is that while Congress did appropriate $380 million in March to help states bolster election security, that’s not enough to replace all that aging voting equipment, including touchscreen machines still in use in many states that only store votes digitally. Those are especially worrisome to many security experts, since there’s no paper trail to recount if the machine malfunctions or gets hacked.