Officials Look to Replace Aging Voting Machines

Voting technology purchased with federal funding provided by the 2002 Help America Vote Act is nearing the end of its useful life in many states and counties. Early last year, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration sounded the alarm on this issue after a survey of local election officials revealed a looming crisis.

Several states and counties are making significant investments in new technology:

  • Maryland officials approved a $28 million dollar contract to switch the state to optical-scan voting technology, similar to machines used there almost a decade ago. This time, however, the state plans to lease instead of buy the technology to provide more flexibility in the future.
  • Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) recently proposed spending $28 million on new optical-scan systems. If the proposal goes through, a procurement process would select the specific model of machines, which would be uniform statewide.
  • Worcester, Quincy, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, are pooling their resources to purchase new voting technology. The cities hope that by teaming up they will receive more favorable pricing. Worcester, where the technology is nearly 25 years old and has become prone to breakdowns, has $350,000 budgeted for new machines. Other cities in the state are considering joining this effort.
  • Counties in Kansas are concerned as well. Johnson County, for example, has 2,400 voting machines with an average age of 12 years.  They will need to be replaced soon, which is likely to cost millions. Officials have discussed issuing bonds to fund the purchase.

Unlike 10 years ago, these jurisdictions today have no federal funding available to help pay for new technology. More state and local governments will probably face this dilemma before the 2016 presidential election.

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