As a nation that prides itself on being up to date on the latest technology and software, the United States is failing terribly behind in one major category, working voting machines on election days. The dilemma has put the integrity of elections on election day at risk as many machines are outdated by almost 10 years with software that isn’t even production today.
“We’re getting by with band-aids,” a member of the federal election commission said before the 2016 election. Many of the problems that occurred on election day 2016, have been associated with voting machines as they have either broken down causing people to have to use paper ballots or if not breaking down completely, having technical difficulties causing long lines and frustrations for voters.
The problems that occurred also happened in battleground states such as North Carolina whose votes proved critical to the 2016 election. Technical problems in Dunham County North Carolina forced officials to switch to paper ballots which caused lines and delays.
North Carolina proved to be a critical state in determining the outcome of the election as it was one of a handful of states, with Florida, Ohio Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin deciding the election.
The issues surrounding voting machines not only affect people with long lines and delays on election day, but also the elderly and disabled. Montana, a state that has seen its share of problems relating to these issues, is just one of many states that is trying to fix the problems.
Missoula County, one of the largest counties in Montana, has been the focus of problems as it had been sued by disabled voters. 20 disabled voters voted in the state which has 32 counties that participate in the voting process.
“I like going through the process of filling out my own ballot,” Missoula County resident, Chris Clasby said. Clasby became paralyzed in 1990 but he likes the idea of voting in person and doing it on his own.
However not all disabled voters are able to vote like Clasby has, and many of the machines are not compatible with the standards set forth by federal law.
“We really do need to invest in new technology” said Missoula County election official, Rebecca Connors. The machines that are disabled person compatible are made by Auto mark. However, not every polling place uses the Auto mark machines.
The Auto mark machines have head phone options so verbal instructions could be read to visually impaired people. The machine also comes with ballots that can be inserted if the person wants to fill out a paper ballot. The machines also have easy to find buttons for those who need.
Yellowstone County in Montana has one of the highest numbers of auto mark machines in the country. “We have a few extra ones right now, but I’m hesitant to give one away,” said Bret Rutherford who is the counties’ election administrator. Yellowstone County had one of the highest numbers of disabled people voting in the country during the 2016 election.
However, the problem with updating the voting machines is the funding has not been allocated and it will be extremely expensive to update them. A reporter before the 2016 election showed that it will cost an estimated $1 billion to replace the machines in all fifty states.
Like every subject in this country however, the funding issue has been divided and slowed down by partisan politics in Washington. The issue has been stalled in D.C since 2002 and there has been no real action taken on the issue.
“There are more machine breakdowns and more malfunctions all over the place,” said Wendy Weiser who is the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy’s program director, referring to the 2016 election. Weiser continued saying that the machines in 42 states have machines that are ten years or older.
A report by the Brennan Center also concluded that “old voting equipment increases the risk of failures and crashes, which could lead to long lines and lost votes on election day.” So, the problem not only is one that involves disabled voters not being able to vote but also that of software breakdowns and crashes that forced election officials to switch to paper ballots which caused delays and lines.
In conclusion, if the United States is one that prides itself as one that is a Democracy and a country that takes pride in technology, then we should update our voting machines and make sure that they are safe from outside influence and the breakdowns that caused the long lines in the last election could be avoided in the future.
Links to sources:
- Washington Post Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/11/08/election-day-voters-report-long-lines-intimidation-and-confusion-in-some-parts-of-the-country/
- New York Times Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/12/opinion/americas-aging-voting-machines.html
- U.S News Link: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/montana/articles/2017-05-08/aging-voting-machines-pose-challenges-for-disabled-counties
- Auto Mark YouTube Video Tutorial for voting machines: