Voting machines around the United States are coming to the end of their useful lives. Breakdowns are increasingly common. Spare parts are difficult, if not impossible, to find. That could be a serious problem for next year’s presidential elections. Allen County, Ohio, election director Ken Terry knows how bad things can get. In the last presidential election, he had to replace the Zip disks — a 1990s technology — in the main machine his county uses to count votes. The disks are no longer made. And when he finally got some from the voting machine manufacturer: “They actually had a coupon in them. They were sealed and everything. And the coupon had expired in … 1999,” he said. And, to make matters worse, Terry said his voting machines use memory cards that hold only 250 megabytes of data — a tiny fraction of what you can store today on a $6 thumb drive. “You know, by today’s standards that’s just absurd,” he said.
Allen County is by no means alone in dealing with antiquated voting equipment. In Michigan, optical scan machines purchased in 2005 are breaking down at an increasing rate. That can be frustrating for voters and election workers, Oakland County election director Joe Rozell said.
“We’ve all become experts with cans of compressed air, trying to clear any debris or any pieces of paper that may have jammed the ballot path,” he said.