“The coming voting machine crisis”

Rokey Suleman and R. Doug Lewis in The Hill:

Simply put, old voting equipment is expensive to maintain and is more prone to failures. That can mean machine freezes, shut downs, and in the worst cases, erroneous vote tallies. And the problem is national in scope. Forty-three states are using some machines that are at least 10 years old. In most of these states the majority of election districts are using machines 10 years old or more, according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice. Problems are already beginning to show. As a result of problems in the 2014 election, Virginia recently decertified a voting system used in 24 percent of the state’s precincts after finding that an external party could access the machine’s wireless features to “record voting data or inject malicious data[.]” What this creates is not just an exceeding concern about correctly capturing and recording of voters votes…it also can lead to a crisis of confidence in the entire democracy process.

Election officials in at least 31 states want to purchase new voting machines in the next five years, according to the Brennan Center. The total cost could exceed $1 billion.

Which is where the EAC comes in. The EAC sets testing and certification guidelines for voting machines. With so many states and localities looking to purchase new machines, the EAC will play a pivotal role in providing guidelines for new machines —  for how they should be tested, used, and maintained.

The last 10 years have seen a sea-change in computer technology and our understanding of what voting machines might be able to do. It’s hard to believe, but iPads didn’t exist before 2010, and iPhones only came to market in 2007. Imagine how quickly technology may change in the next 10 years.

We need a federal agency with a national perspective and expertise that can help assist local election officials — who often struggle with almost no budget or staff — through such changes. Many officials, including one of us, asked Congress to create the EAC to help continuously improve democracy. We believe it would be foolish to give it so little money that it can’t do even the basic function of assuring quality voting equipment for use in elections.

Local and state officials tell us that budget authorities are not providing the funds to replace machines even though we are at the crisis stage for some of the equipment. The EAC can make sure local officials are aware of best practices for extending the life of voting machines and ensure that jurisdictions are aware of the biggest potential problems for each system. Most important, the EAC can act as a clearinghouse for information about machine problems and possible fixes. As it now stands, one county may be having a problem with a machine and a county in another state may be having the identical problem with the same machine, but the second county might never know it. The EAC can provide critical information to election officials about how to cure problems.


Comments are closed.