You probably remember the frustrations during the 2016 and 2018 elections: the long lines at the polls, the questions about whether our votes were being property recorded and whether voting machines were being hacked or not. A new study offers little comfort to those hoping 2020 will be better. It finds that voting technology across the U.S. is outdated and falling apart.
Lawrence Norden is deputy director of the Democracy Program at New York University Law School’s Brennan Center, which conducted the survey. He says election officials in 31 states told Brennan Center researchers that they needed to replace voting technology before 2020. Even more states are using machines that are more than 10 years old, or even discontinued by the manufacturer. Norden says this poses risks to system reliability and security.
“Like any machines, as they get older, they’re more likely to have parts fail,” Norden says.
And failing machines can lead to long lines.
“They’re using old software that may not get security patches anymore from the vendors,” Norden says. “A lot of these machine, particularly in Texas, don’t have a paper backup, which security experts say is critical if there’s any kind of software bug or glitch, or if the system has actually been hacked, and we want to check if the software is accurate.”
Norden says part of the reason voting systems haven’t been modernized is that “nobody wants to take responsibility for paying for this election infrastructure.”
Counties, many of which have limited financial resources, are responsible for creating and funding the election system. Jurisdictions that do want to replace outdated equipment are trying to get started in 2019, in an attempt to stave off potential problems and criticism in 2020 if elections don’t run smoothly, or if a candidate has a quibble with a particular result.
“I think we have this year to do it, and to test it and to run it in elections that aren’t big-turnout elections, so that poll workers and voters have a little bit more experience with these systems,” Norden says.
He also says lack of paper backup for ballots will make people less confident in election systems that include new technology.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.