In 2012, hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. waited, at first patiently and then with growing frustration, in lines that ventured out the doors and wrapped around street corners. They weren’t waiting more than seven hours in line to buy the new iPhone — they were waiting to vote on an electronic touch-screen machine. Technology has made life easier, simplifying common tasks such as banking, publishing a book, talking to friends and paying for things online. But when it comes to voting, technology is stuck in 2002. And with the decade-old electronic voting machines that states use falling apart — creating long lines that cause some not vote at all — voters are slowly losing access to their voting rights. There’s been renewed emphasis on voting rights in the last year, since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act. … But even without ID laws, voters face obstacles at polling centers having to wait hours to vote in some regions partly because of outdated and too few electronic voting machines.
“More affluent counties and cities are able to spend more on election administration. And so they have more staff, they have better machines,” said Barry Burden, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. “And places with lower incomes and a weaker tax base just don’t have the funds to replace the equipment and hire the staff they might like…So voters end up getting served differentially, you know, depending on where they live.”
… “Besides the fact that a lot of states are left in the lurch with equipment that’s breaking down, that’s unreliable — [Maryland] had to pull machines out of circulation in the middle of an election because the test screen goes out of calibration,” Wilson said. That means the screen would register a voter’s touch about an inch below the candidate he or she selected, potentially casting a vote for the wrong candidate. “And there’s no telling what’s getting reported,” she said.
Barbara Simons, former IBM programmer and voting technology expert, added that voters are then left with machines with faulty software that are prone to crashes, and are otherwise “physically falling apart” because they are so old, contributing to long lines.