In the next several years, new voting equipment will need to be begged, borrowed or bought in most of the nation’s jurisdictions. This raises at least two questions: In an age of galloping technological advancement, what should we buy? And, who’s going to pay for it? … When levers and punch cards went out, what came in? Two systems, one based on electronics (often with a touch screen) and the other based on optical scanners that “score” hand-marked paper ballots in the same way that standardized tests are scored. The electronic machines (aka DREs, short for “direct recording electronic” voting machines) dominated the market in the early part of the 2000s; but by 2008, optical scanning equipment had become more common. (See the map provided by Verified Voting.org for details.) A debate still rages between advocates of the two systems. Those who distrust electronic machines say they make votes hard to recount when an election is contested. Additionally, “there should be a way that a voter can check on a hard copy—independent from the software—that their vote was captured as they intended it to be,” says Pam Smith of Verified Voting.org, an organization that advocates for a voter-verifiable paper trail for elections.
… Before 2002, local jurisdictions generally paid for voting equipment; then HAVA kicked in with its one-time pot of money. Looking ahead? There are no signs that federal money will become available, yet local jurisdictions are ill-equipped to go it alone. A single voting machine costs $3,000 to $6,000; that’s a lot of money in small towns with populations that can be measured in four figures. States will be asked to kick in; some will say “yes” and others may say “no.” Arkansas said “yes” this year, by appropriating funds for the Secretary of State’s office to make grants to counties for voting systems.
In the meantime, local jurisdictions are squeezing their pennies. “This is a big expense coming for local jurisdictions everywhere, and they’re trying to plan for it,” says Brian Newby, the election commissioner for Johnson County, Kan. In his jurisdiction, with 600,000 people, “if we had to buy new equipment, it would cost $10 million. If we spend $10 million on voting equipment, that’s $10 million we don’t have for firehouses and other local priorities,” he says. Newby recently bought 400 reconditioned DRE machines to get Johnson county through the next few years. After that, he’s looking at a “bring-your-own-voting-machine” concept: voters use their own tablet or smart phone to render the ballot. It’s then sent to a printer and scanned. You needn’t worry about security, he says, because “it’s your device; no one has monkeyed with it.” (Voters without gadgets will continue to use county-provided equipment.)
Full Article: The Canvass June 2012.