Fifteen years after voting problems in Florida left the United States without a clear winner in its presidential election for five traumatizing weeks, a disturbing proportion of voting machines in use across the nation are old and prone to malfunction, according to the findings of a major new study issued Tuesday by the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law. From counties still using analog modems, dot-matrix printers and software that works only with Windows 2000 to touchscreen machines with surfaces so degraded that votes can be recorded for the wrong candidates, the the 68-page report raises alarms about the condition of election equipment and the potential for Election Day 2000-style failures. Forty-three states have counties using machines that will be at least 10 years old by Election Day 2016, and counties in 14 states will be using machines that will be more than 15 years old, co-authors Lawrence Norden and Christopher Famighetti found. They put their national estimate for replacement equipment at more than $1 billion, but they believe that using off-the-shelf technology like tablet computers could considerably reduce immediate and long-term expenses.
“Someone must come up with the money,” the authors urge in the report, “America’s Voting Machines at Risk.” “While most experts we spoke to agree there is little chance Congress will provide hundreds of millions (or potentially billions) of dollars for new machines, targeted investments by the federal government and state governments could have enormous benefits.”
… Barbara Simons, who chairs the board of the election integrity advocacy group Verified Voting, said the report carries a “an important message — we’re not running our elections the way we should be.”
“We have aging systems, some of which were bad systems to begin with,” said Simons, a co-author of “Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?” “Are we really going to continue to run our elections in such a haphazard way? We’re really putting our democracy at risk by relying on machines that are not reliable or in some cases insecure.”