COLUMBUS – The end of the line is nearing for Ohio’s electronic voting machines, which a new report indicates could cause trouble during the 2016 election.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, 90 percent of Ohio counties are using machines that are 10 years old.
Report co-author Christopher Famighetti says that’s much longer than the machines are designed to last.
“Most of us don’t keep our laptops, desktops, over a decade, and that’s the type of technology that most of the machines in use today are using,” he explains.
Joshua Eck, press secretary for Secretary of State Jon Husted, agrees the equipment is old, but he says it’s not failing.
“It’s not in a dire strait yet, but it’s something that needs to be on everybody’s thoughts, and we need to begin preparing to upgrade the equipment in the next couple of years,” he acknowledges.
Famighetti points out that after time, machine parts including memory cards and motherboards are prone to failure, which he says can result in long lines at the polls.
The report notes that as computers age their parts can become obsolete, making repairs nearly impossible. More than 40 states will use electronic voting machines in 2016 that are at least a decade old.
The report found that only five of the 25 Ohio counties that said they would need voting machines before 2020 would have the funding to purchase them.
Eck says it’s too much for local governments.
“Voting equipment is not cheap, so it needs to be a partnership between all levels of government,” he stresses. “The federal government is certainly going to need to be involved. The state government needs to be involved because it’s an expense that’s too much for just our counties to handle on their own.”
The estimated cost to replace aging machines nationally could top $1 billion, Famighetti says. But because it’s too late to replace machines for 2016, he recommends boards of election implement precautionary plans.
“We note in the report that it will be important to take the preventive measures necessary to make sure that machines are working on Election Day like pre-election testing and good maintenance procedures,” he explains.