Replacing outdated voting equipment could cost $350M, researchers say

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Jurisdictions in 23 states are using voting equipment that’s more than decade old and no longer manufactured, according to a report published Tuesday by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. And equipment designed to assist voters with physical disabilities to cast private ballots is still being used in parts or all of 26 states.

All told, it could cost upward of $350 million to replace all the outmoded equipment, researchers concluded.

The glimpse at assistive voting machines was one part of a now-biennial report the Brennan Center conducts on the state of election infrastructure across the United States. While state and local election officials nationwide have made significant upgrades to their voting technology in recent years — fueled in large part by $380 million in federal grants awarded in 2018 and private donations from the likes of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — tens of millions of voters still reside in jurisdictions where balloting devices are aged, no longer supported by their original vendors or both, the Brennan Center found.

“Machines are aging past their projec­ted life cycle without being replaced, leav­ing juris­dic­tions with systems that are signi­fic­antly more than a decade old,” the report reads. “Many of these systems are no longer manu­fac­tured, which can make it diffi­cult or impossible to find replace­ment parts.”

The 23 states where principal voting machines are no longer in production account for about 21 million registered voters, according to the Brennan Center. When including the states and territories where the assistive devices are also out-of-date — a group that includes Florida and New York — that figure approaches 40 million registered voters.

The Brennan Center also concluded it could cost another $105 million to replace the remaining inventories of direct recording electronic machines, also known as DREs, that don’t provide paper copies of ballots for later auditing. Those devices, which were once widely popular, have largely been phased out in the past five years, but are still used in parts or all of six states, including Louisiana, which last acquired voting machines in the early 2000s.

While Louisiana lawmakers passed a measure last year requiring the state to replace its election technology, officials last month were still deliberating how to proceed. The state has also delayed the purchasing of new machines multiple times since 2018 after vendor complaints about the bidding process.

A group of election officials said in January that while recent rounds of federal and philanthropic grants have helped, equipment costs continue to mount, raising the need for more aid. Meanwhile, voting machines purchased since 2010 are approaching their end-of-life, the Brennan Center said, and could bring at least another $230 million in replacement costs.

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Brennan Center for Justice, election security, voting equipment, voting machines
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