Outdated and rickety voting machines and pitched partisan battles over early balloting reportedly could jeopardize the fairness of the 2016 election in the crucial swing state of Ohio, Politico magazine reports
Changes in Ohio's 2005 law expanding early and absentee voting have come under fire — and scaled back by the Supreme Court last year
— and an "impending crisis" in 10-year-old voting equipment hasn't been addressed.
The combination could lead to a nightmare repeat of November 2000, when a tight race between George W. Bush and Al Gore led to a contested recount in Florida — replete with the state's ballots' "hanging chads."
"We're in a highly partisan atmosphere now so that leads to more fights and litigation," Richard Hasen, an expert in election law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, tells Politico.
Adding to the problems, Hasen says, is a trend toward closer presidential elections and key Supreme Court decisions on voting law
that have led to "an increased churn and question of how far these voting changes can go."
The controversial 2000 election also exposed the need to modernize voting infrastructure, Politico reports, and in Ohio in 2004, a combination of good turnout and bad planning led to long lines at polls for a vote that John Kerry conceded to Bush the day after the election.
All but four of Ohio's 88 counties are using machines bought in 2006 or earlier, but only a handful have plans to replace them, Politico reports.
States are responsible for purchasing and maintaining their own equipment, and Ohio isn't the only state in trouble.
On Election Day 2014, for example, voting machines in Spotsylvania County in Virginia started crashing and became inoperable, Politico reports. A review showed machines' software, a version of Windows from 2002, was easy to hack, as was its database, Politico reports.
Some states have upgraded their machines, including New Mexico and Maryland, but they're the exception to the rule.
This year, the Arkansas legislature passed a bill authorizing $30 million to buy new machines but then failed to actually provide the money, Politico reports.
Meanwhile, some 33 states plus Washington, D.C., offer early voting periods, and Ohio’s is longer than most, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Politico reports.
But officials in the Buckeye state's more-populous counties say the new rules have tied their hands and have the effect of reducing access for the people who most need it.
"The problem we have is that when they try to stick uniformity into the formula, they tend to restrict things," Pat McDonald, a Republican elections director for Cuyahoga County in Ohio, tells Politico.
"Don't take it away from us; give it to the other counties. Make it more accessible. Make it easier for the voters."
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