Election experts have long warned about the nation’s aging fleet of voting equipment. This week’s elections underscored just how badly upgrades are needed. Across the country, reports poured in Tuesday amid heavy voter turnout of equipment failing or malfunctioning, triggering frustration among voters and long lines at polling places. Scanners used to record ballots broke down in New York City. Voting machines stalled or stopped working in Detroit. Electronic poll books used to check in voters failed in Georgia. Machines failed to read ballots in Wake County, North Carolina, as officials blamed humidity and lengthy ballots. Those problems followed a busy early voting period that revealed other concerns, including machines that altered voters’ choices in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.
Voting experts had hoped the threat of foreign governments meddling in U.S. elections, raised in 2016 when Russia targeted state election systems, would prompt action to upgrade the machinery that underpins U.S. elections. But two years before the 2020 presidential election, 41 states are still using machines that were manufactured more than a decade ago and a dozen states are using at least some electronic machines that produce no paper trail, which can be used to settle a disputed outcome. Just three states require the type of rigorous audit backed by cybersecurity experts.
Some of the voting machines in use Tuesday were built before Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, while other equipment has become so obsolete that election workers have been forced to search on eBay for replacement parts.
… “You design it to work regardless of how fast people push buttons,” said University of Iowa computer scientist Douglas Jones, author of “Broken Ballots.” Jones said Tuesday’s problems were not unusually bad given the state of the technology used. On Election Day, 18 voting locations in Texas opened late because of machine or poll book failures, and some locations still did not have all machines working by mid-afternoon Tuesday.