This year, as Americans select the next president, the entire U.S. House of Representatives and a third of the Senate, as well as an array of state and local officials, many voters will cast ballots on a generation of electronic voting machines that is nearing extinction. Most of the machines, adopted by local governments after “hanging chads” left the 2000 presidential election in the balance for weeks, are at least a decade old. And they create a perilous situation: an equipment breakdown on Election Day could mean long lines, potentially leaving some people unable to vote. But replacing the old machines with newer models is costly. The latest computerized machines typically cost between $2,500 and $3,000 each, and election boards should budget for one machine per 250 to 300 registered voters, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). That high cost is just one reason the computerized machines, which record ballots via a touch-screen, push-button or dial mechanism, have been falling out of favor with cash-strapped local governments. Some elections officials and lawmakers also worry the machines could be hacked and lead to voter fraud.
… About 25 percent of voters will use electronic voting systems this year, said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a nonprofit focused on ballot accuracy. That’s down from 30 to 40 percent when the machines were more popular. In most states, those machines are at least 10 years old, an age at which most reach the end of their life span, according to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice. Nearly every state is using machines that are no longer manufactured.
Jurisdictions have to “make sure they have good emergency provisions in place,” Smith said. “If you have a good paper ballot and scanner system in place as your voting system, even if your scanner breaks down, voters can still vote.”
… As the computer models fade out, most jurisdictions are replacing them with the scanner systems, which are more affordable and were recommended by experts following the 2000 presidential election. But, the high-tech (for the time) computer systems were more attractive, Smith said, because “nobody wanted to be the next Florida.”
Full Article: Aging Voting Machines Cost Local, State Governments.