Although more than half the country may be unhappy with the results, America dodged a bullet on Election Day. That is, our voting machines generally held up. The tabulations they produced were not so close as to throw the election results in doubt, and there’s no legitimate indication that any were hacked. In the next presidential election, we may not be so lucky. With antiquated voting devices at the end of their projected lifespans still in widespread use across the country, the U.S. is facing an impending crisis in which our most basic election infrastructure is unacceptably vulnerable to breakdown, malfunction, and hacking. It’s not just an inconvenience. If the machinery of democracy is called into question, so are its foundations. Those of us who can recall the presidential election of 2000 know exactly what can happen when faulty technology meets a razor-close election. The Bush-Gore contest came down to just a few hundred votes in Florida, and butterfly ballots and faulty punch card machines left us arguing about hanging, dimpled, and pregnant chads. It left wounds that still afflict the country. In today’s hyperpartisan environment, such a scenario—or even unfounded accusations of a “rigged” election that gained postelection traction—would be far more contentious. Just imagine what it might be like in 2020.
Absent a wholesale replacement of our outdated electoral equipment, this scenario is becoming increasingly likely for our future elections. The problem of aging voting technology reaches nearly every corner of the United States, as we documented in a report released by the Brennan Center for Justice in 2015. Unlike voting machines used in past eras, today’s systems were not designed to last for decades. Although it is difficult to predict how long an individual machine will reliably function, the experts we spoke with generally agree that machines purchased since 2000 have expected lifespans of only 10 to 20 years. (And for most systems, it’s probably closer to 10.) This makes sense: No one expects a laptop to run reliably for more than a decade. Yet on Election Day 2016, 42 states used voting machines that were at least 10 years old, and 13 of those states used ones more than 15 years old. If replacements continue to stall before the next presidential election, many more will surpass their recommended retirement age.
Perhaps even more troubling, these aging machines are particularly vulnerable to hacking. Although the country has made important advances in securing our voting technology in recent years, these older devices often rely on unsupported software (we found machines still operating on Windows 2000) that doesn’t receive the regular security patches that help protect against modern methods of cyberattacks and hasn’t been through the relatively rigorous federal certification program that exists today. What’s more, many of these systems don’t have a physical paper trails or ballots to back up the results, meaning there’s no way to independently verify how voters intended to cast their ballots in the case of a suspected hack. Our country’s patchwork of jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction voting systems would make it difficult to manipulate results on a national scale, but hackers could still do considerable damage by tampering with votes in a swing district, stealing records to undermine voter privacy, or just sowing suspicion of a larger conspiracy.
Full Article: Now is the time to fix our old voting machines..