For all the hubbub about election security in the US ahead of the 2018 midterms, there is one issue that almost no one seems to be talking about: old voting machines. A total of 41 states currently have voting machines that are at least a decade old, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, leaving thousands of systems vulnerable to hackers and other security risks that could compromise election results. With old voting machines come a whole host of issues: outdated software, machine breakdown, spare replacement parts that are near impossible to find. On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US election, called on states to “rapidly replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems.”
“At a minimum, any machine purchased going forward should have a voter-verified paper trail and no WiFi capability,” the Committee said in its draft summary of steps that state officials can take to ensure the integrity of elections.
But the problem with old voting machines isn’t necessarily that they can be easily hacked, said Marian Schneider, president of the advocacy group Verified Voting. The issue is that when machines are compromised, it’s often impossible to tell.
“We all lock our doors at night because we don’t want people to break in,” Schneider told Business Insider. “But if someone is going to break in, they’re going to break in, and we just want to know that. It’s the same with our election infrastructure. We have to have the ability to detect if someone has gotten in.” In many states, officials don’t have that ability.