“More than 200 of Texas’ 254 counties still need to replace their voting machines,” wrote David Saleh Rauf for the Texas Observer. “It appears unlikely that all will be able to do so in time for the next presidential election.” The reason? A roughly $350M cost.
In some counties, equipment is being used that is no longer manufactured and relies on parts and peripherals no longer available. Bexar Co. famously received donations of Zip disks – Remember those? – after an Associated Press story a year ago highlighted the problems of locating the old storage devices upon which their voting machines depend.
Voting machines are much more likely to fail for mundane reasons, like a non-responsive touchscreen or broken hard drive, than from foreign espionage or efforts to rig an election, yet the focus is on the latter. Congress is expected to send new money to states as a result of Russian interference in the last general election, but it is unlikely to go toward replacing aging equipment. Cybersecurity, auditing and voter registration security are the main targets of the roughly $23M in new federal funding.
The last significant federal cash infusion for new equipment was contained in the 2002 Help America Vote Act, which is more than one life cycle ago for nearly every electronic voting machine on the market then.
Meanwhile, Travis Co. commissioners approved an $8M purchase of new voting machines that provide paper backups. Voters will still use a touchscreen interface, but they can print out a vote record to check the machine’s accuracy. The paper printout will then be fed into a sealed machine that scans it, allowing for what experts call a “gold standard” of auditability.
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