Electronic voting machines in 43 states are at least a decade old, "perilously close to the end of most systems' expected lifespan," and could pose a risk to the 2016 election, a new study from the the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law finds.
After a 10 month probe that included interviews with over 100 election officials and experts in every state, the investigators concluded that the threat also extends to "significant percentages of machines" in swing states including Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.
Entitled America's Voting Machines at Risk, the study warns: "Old voting equipment increases the risk of failures and crashes—which can lead to long lines and lost votes on Election Day—and problems only get worse the longer we wait."
The warning evokes the "hanging chads" scandal that swept George W. Bush into the presidency in 2000 despite the fact that he lost the nationwide popular vote. While the debacle prompted Congress to appropriate $2 billion towards electronic voting systems, that equipment is now quickly becoming outdated, the report warns.
"Technology has changed dramatically in the last decade," said Christopher Famighetti, co-author of the report, in a statement. "Several recent innovations show it’s possible to move toward more affordable and flexible voting machines. States must develop plans to deal with aging machines before 2016, and invest in the next generation of machines for future elections to come."
Forty-three states are using machines that will be at least 10 years old during next year's election, the report states. Meanwhile, 14 states will be using machines that will be more than 15 years old.
However, no state is in the clear. "Nearly every state is using some machines that are no longer manufactured and many election officials struggle to find replacement parts," the study determines.
Election authorities and experts who think there is a problem don't all have the resources to replace their outdated machinery. "Election jurisdictions in at least 31 states want to purchase new voting machines in the next five years," the report notes. "Officials from 22 of these states said they did not know where they would get the money to pay for them."
Even more troubling, in states that leave it to counties to fund their own machines, "there is compelling evidence that bigger, wealthier counties have purchased new machines, while poorer, rural counties are left with old equipment," a research summary warns.