Remember all that new voting equipment purchased after the 2000 presidential election, when those discredited punch card machines were tossed out? Now, the newer machines are starting to wear out. Election officials are trying to figure out what to do before there’s another big voting disaster and vendors have lined up to help. During their annual meeting in Washington, D.C., this week, state election officials previewed the latest voting equipment from one of the industry’s big vendors, Election Systems and Software. ES&S expects a huge surge in buying very soon. It hopes its new ExpressVote machine will appeal to those who want convenient voting as well as the security of a paper ballot that’s counted separately. “We’re seeing a buying cycle that’s starting now, and will probably go for the next maybe four or five years,” said Kathy Rogers, a senior vice president at ES&S who used to run elections for the state of Georgia. Rogers says companies have to be more flexible than they were 10 or so years ago. Both the technology and how people vote is changing rapidly. “Some are moving to all vote by mail; some are increasingly becoming early vote sites,” she said. “We have some that have moved as far away from direct record electronics as they possibly can, and then we have others who love that technology.”
That technology is those touchscreen voting machines that many states bought after 2000. Some states including Maryland are scrapping them in favor of paper-backed equipment, because of security concerns. But in a sign of the times, Maryland is leasing its new equipment from ES&S, instead of buying — just in case something better comes along in a few years.
“I don’t have to tell you all, the technology is old and it’s ancient by technology standards,” said Matt Masterson in an address to the election officials. He helped run Ohio’s elections and is a newly appointed commissioner on the federal Election Assistance Commission.