As this year’s presidential primaries move beyond the First Four states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, and into the dozen “Super Tuesday” states voting on March 1, millions of Americans will find themselves exercising their right to vote on computerized machines from the pre-iPhone era running on software like Windows 2000 with hardware like 512 kilobyte memory cards. “It’s concerning because this is the infrastructure for our elections,” said Lawrence Norden, co-author of America’s Voting Machines at Risk, a recent Brennan Center for Justice report found 43 states have counties using voting equipment 10 to 15-years-old. “The most immediate short-term concern is that we get more failures on election days – that machines crash or shut down or have to be taken out of service, because they’re not working like they’re supposed to,” Norden said. “That can create chaos at the polling place and long lines.”
His concern is bolstered by what happened in the 2012 general election, when an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 people did not vote because of long lines, according to a study by the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, Waiting in Line to Vote. The study found average voter wait times on November 6, 2012, ranged from a minute-and-half in Vermont to 39 minutes in Florida, though reduced early voting days and long ballot referenda text contributed to the lines.
With 8,000 separate election jurisdictions using equipment of their own choosing, the recommendation that states increase the number of voting machines and poll workers is easier said than done.
The CalTech/MIT study was commissioned by the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which issued its own report in 2014 forecasting “an impending crisis” with voting machines.