Midterm vot­ing ex­poses grow­ing prob­lem of na­tion’s ag­ing ma­chines

The Mercury News - - News - By Christina A. Cas­sidy and Micghael Liedtke

AT­LANTA >> Elec­tion ex­perts have long warned about the na­tion’s ag­ing fleet of vot­ing equip­ment. This week’s elec­tions un­der­scored just how badly up­grades are needed.

Across the coun­try, re­ports poured in Tues­day amid heavy voter turnout of equip­ment fail­ing or mal­func­tion­ing, trig­ger­ing frus­tra­tion among vot­ers and long lines at polling places.

Scan­ners used to record bal­lots broke down in New York City. Vot­ing ma­chines stalled or stopped work­ing in De­troit. Elec­tronic poll books used to check in vot­ers failed in Ge­or­gia. Ma­chines failed to read bal­lots in Wake County, North Carolina, as of­fi­cials blamed hu­mid­ity and lengthy bal­lots.

Those prob­lems fol­lowed a busy early vot­ing pe­riod that re­vealed other con­cerns, in­clud­ing ma­chines that al­tered vot­ers’ choices in Texas, North Carolina and Ge­or­gia.

Vot­ing ex­perts had hoped the threat of for­eign govern­ments med­dling in U.S. elec­tions, raised in 2016 when Rus­sia tar­geted state elec­tion sys­tems, would prompt ac­tion to up­grade the ma­chin­ery that un­der­pins U.S. elec­tions.

But two years be­fore the

2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, 41 states are still us­ing ma­chines that were man­u­fac­tured more than a decade ago and a dozen states are us­ing at least some elec­tronic ma­chines that pro­duce no pa­per trail, which can be used to set­tle a dis­puted out­come. Just three states re­quire the type of rig­or­ous au­dit backed by cy­ber­se­cu­rity ex­perts.

Some of the vot­ing ma­chines in use Tues­day were built be­fore Ap­ple re­leased the first iPhone in 2007, while other equip­ment has be­come so ob­so­lete that elec­tion work­ers have been forced to search on eBay for re­place­ment parts.

In some cases, lo­cal elec­tion of­fices have no tech­ni­cians who are trained to re­pair

their ma­chines when some­thing goes wrong. Some even run on Win­dows op­er­at­ing sys­tems that Mi­crosoft no longer sup­ports.

“You can’t run democ­racy on the cheap,” said Jenny Flana­gan, vice pres­i­dent for state op­er­a­tions with Com­mon Cause. “We have to in­vest in our democ­racy to make our elec­tions work.”

Congress sent $380 mil­lion to states ear­lier this year, but that was nowhere near enough to pay for the bulk of the na­tion’s nearly 10,000 elec­tion ju­ris­dic­tions to up­grade their equip­ment. Ex­perts with the Bren­nan Cen­ter for Jus­tice have es­ti­mated it would take $1 bil­lion or more to make the nec­es­sary up­grades.

DAVID GOLD­MAN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Se­bas­tian Snelling, left, is given in­struc­tions on us­ing a pa­per bal­lot as the precinct switched over from elec­tronic vot­ing ma­chines af­ter a judge or­dered the lo­ca­tion to re­main open un­til 10 p.m. in At­lanta on Tues­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.