When Americans head to the polls for next year’s presidential election, 43 states will be using electronic voting machines that are at least a decade old, according to a new study from New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice released Tuesday. And the price tag for replacement machines could top $1 billion. Fifteen years after the term “hanging chad” entered the American political lexicon, and Congress appropriated $2 billion to move to electronic voting systems to avoid a future conundrum, those same electronic systems are still in use in many jurisdictions. “No one expects a laptop to last for 10 years. How can we expect these machines, many of which were designed and engineered in the 1990s, to keep running without increased failures?” said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Center’s Democracy Program, and co-author of the study, in a statement. “Old equipment can have serious security flaws, and the longer we delay purchasing new machines, the higher the risk. To avoid a new technology crisis every decade, we must plan for and invest in voting technology for the 21st century.”
The biggest risk in waiting, the study found, is that machines will continue to fail and malfunction, increasing lines at the voting booth and causing a crisis in confidence in the voting system.
In 14 states, the machines in use next year will be at least 15 years old, far past the point of technological obsolescence. The study found that nearly every state is using some machines that are no longer manufactured, with parts that are growing increasingly difficult or impossible for election officials to acquire.
According to the study’s findings, officials in 31 states want to purchase new machines for next year, but in 22 of those states, they are not sure how they would pay for them. The Brennan Center estimates that the initial cost of replacing the obsolete equipment could exceed $1 billion, based upon recent contracts and assessments furnished by those officials, though it is quick to note that those costs could be offset with lower operating costs and better contracts.