Voting machines in dozens of states are so old that they pose the risk of long lines and lost votes in the 2016 election, a new report warns.
"Fifteen years after a national election trauma that was caused in signiﬁcant measure by obsolete voting equipment, the country is faced again with outdated machines," the report, "America's Voting Machines at Risk
," says of the "troubling" findings.
The statement refers to November 2000, when a tight presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore led to a contested recount in Florida — replete with the state's ballots' "hanging chads."
The New York University's Brennan Center
for Justice report was released Tuesday.
"Our voting equipment is old and past its usefulness," U.S. Election Assistance Commissioner Tom Hicks tells researchers, according to the report. "We’re getting by with Band-Aids, but I worry about a crisis with some of the older machines."
Among the key findings were that:
- 43 states are using voting machines that will be at least a decade old in 2016; the lifespan of a voting machine is 10 to 20 years.
- In 14 states, the voting machines will 15 years old or more.
"The longer we delay purchasing new equipment, the more problems we risk, with the biggest risk being increased failures and crashes, which can lead to long lines and lost votes," the report warns.
Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002, which called for upgrading voting infrastructure and provided the money to do it; there's been no more federal money for help since, CNN
"Some jurisdictions seem to be saying we're just going to wait until another catastrophe and then maybe Congress will pay for it," Tammy Patrick, a Democracy Project senior adviser and former elections official, tells researchers. "This is not a good plan."
"These are troubling findings, but our study also provides hope for the future," the report concludes. "Technology has changed dramatically in the last decade, offering the possibility of machines that are more reliable, more usable, and less expensive."
But that won't help a national election just a little over a year away.
"There is no escaping the immediate need to plan and set aside sufficient funds to buy new machines," the researchers write.
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