Minnesota’s aging voting machines are wearing out and will soon need to be replaced. That’s the message Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said he heard “loud and clear” from local officials during his recently completed tour of all 87 Minnesota counties. Most cities, counties and townships use electronic election equipment that is at least 10 years old and getting close to its “10- to 15-year useful lifespan — and 15 is sort of a stretch,” Simon said in a recent interview. There’s a growing risk the voting machines will fail or crash, resulting in lost votes or long lines at polling places. “I’m hearing loudly and clearly from election administrators and others concerned about elections that this is an issue we need to address sooner rather than later and not wait until it becomes a crisis — and they need help,” Simon said.
Voting equipment is expensive. Election specialists from the secretary of state’s office and the Minnesota Management and Budget agency estimate it will cost about $28 million to replace the two main pieces of equipment needed at polling places: the machines that voters insert their ballots in to be counted and “assisted voting” equipment for people with disabilities, which is required by federal law.
Hennepin and Anoka counties have purchased new machines in the past year and Ramsey County is preparing to replace its old equipment, but smaller counties, particularly those in rural Minnesota, do not have the money to upgrade their voting systems, Simon said.