Votes being registered for the wrong candidate. Voting machines running out of memory. Election officials searching eBay for outdated notebook computers. These are just a few of the nightmarish scenarios state and local officials face as the country’s voting machines age and break down. A recent report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law found that the expected lifespan of core components in electronic voting machines purchased since 2000 is between 10 and 20 years, and for most systems it is probably closer to 10 than 20. Experts surveyed by the Brennan Center agree that the majority of machines in use today are either “perilously close to or exceed these estimates.” …Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan organization that studies voting systems, says the bottom line with election technology is “you want to be able to serve the voter. And you want something that doesn’t just give the voter a good feeling when they use it, but is robustly reliable. So at the end of the day, the voter needs to know that their votes were captured the way they intended.”
Smith says election officials need to be able to have verifiable voting data for audits and for potential recounts, and that voter participation could drop if voters feel their ballots aren’t being accurately counted. “You don’t want an election that was kind of questionable and you don’t have any way to prove it,” she says.
Further, Smith says that if everything goes smoothly on Election Day, most voters will never know the names of state or local election officials. However, she says that “if you unfortunately have a situation where things go bad and the equipment doesn’t work, the spotlight is on you. They don’t want that or need that. They want to do it right.”