When the federal government offered money to help states buy new vote-counting machines in 2002, Nebraska officials jumped at the chance. Nebraska used its share of the funding to create a statewide election system with new equipment for all 93 counties — including some remote, low-income areas that still hand-counted their ballots. Now, with machines that are outdated and increasingly difficult to repair, Nebraska lawmakers are largely on their own. “There’s no question it’s going to be a very challenging legislative session in terms of appropriations,” Secretary of State John Gale said in an interview.
Nebraska purchased its current equipment in 2006 with funding from the Help America Vote Act, a federal law passed in response to the 2000 presidential election.
The state received another $3.5 million through the law earlier this year, but state officials say it isn’t enough to cover the estimated $12.6 million in replacement costs. For now, state officials are using the federal money as an emergency fund to replace machines that suddenly stop working.
Gale, who leaves office in January, said he hopes lawmakers act sooner rather than later to address the problem.