Michigan limped through the last election on machines that were more than a decade old, but clerks across the state will soon purchase new ones under contracts approved by the State Administrative Board on Tuesday. “Every election currently, we’re always dealing with different types of mechanical breakdowns … just because the equipment is old and it’s time to upgrade to new technology,” said City of Walker Clerk Sarah Bydalek, who is president of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks. Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said the old machines her precincts use come with humidity issues, and jam if ballots absorb too much moisture. But clerks are expecting those issues to decrease with a statewide rollout of new voting machines by Aug. 2018. The State Administrative Board approved 10-year contracts with three different vendors: Dominion Voting Systems, Election Systems and Software and Hart InterCivic. Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams said each county clerk would choose a system to go with, and local clerks in that county would purchase that system.
The total cost of replacing voting systems statewide will be between $52 and $82 million, depending on which systems clerks choose. The state will cover $40 million of that cost, using a legislative appropriation of $10 million and $30 million in leftover federal money from the 2002 Help America Vote Act.
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson praised the new equipment in a press release. “The new equipment offers voters all the speed and convenience of the latest ballot-scanning and election-night reporting technology while at the same time featuring a good, old-fashioned paper ballot that we can always go back and look at if we need to,” Johnson said.
But Jan BenDor, statewide coordinator of the Michigan Election Reform Alliance, said the machines wouldn’t fix some of the problems identified in the 2016 presidential election, including mis-matches between voting machines and potential security vulnerabilities.