The state of Illinois has improved its cyber defenses since hackers broke into its voter database in 2016 — but the actual machines that will record votes in this fall’s midterms are another story. Most of the state’s voting machines need to be replaced, says Steve Sandvoss, executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections. How many? “It depends on which counties you ask,” said Sandvoss, “but I would say 80, maybe 90 percent. That’s the figure I’m hearing.” Illinois is not alone. Despite compromises of election systems in seven states in 2016, NBC News has interviewed a wide variety of experts in the two years since that election who say a majority of both the nation’s voting machines and the PCs that tally the votes are just not reliable. Most of the nation’s voting machines, for example, are close to 15 years old.
Greg Miller, cofounder of Open Source Election Technology (OSET), a nonprofit that conducts election technology research, says the outcome of the midterms will be determined by votes recorded on “obsolete hardware [and] software that relies on a diet of spare parts.”
“You have equipment that was introduced in 2005,” marvels Miller. “In that time frame, how many times have you changed your mobile phone? And how many times have we replaced our laptops?”