National: Uniformity in Voting Systems: Looking at the Crazy Quilt of Election Technology | The Canvass

June 23, 2016

Since the late 1800s, the decision of whether to use voting machines to help tabulate votes, and which machine to use, has traditionally been left up to local jurisdictions. As different technology was introduced, legislatures passed requirements on what voting machines had to do. However, within those parameters it was still usually up to localities to choose (and purchase) the equipment itself. As a result, voting equipment used in the country looked like a crazy quilt. Then the year 2000 became the year of the “hanging chad” when a punch card voting system used in Florida came under scrutiny and the whole landscape began to change. Congress soon passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 that required phasing out old lever and punch card voting machines and provided a big chunk of change ($3 billion) to states to do so. The money was funneled through the state election office, rather than directly to localities, and states had to submit plans detailing how the funds would be used. As a result, some states decided that it made sense to purchase the same type of voting equipment for every jurisdiction in the state. A patchwork is still the norm in the majority of states—counties are still the deciders of what voting equipment to use, as long as they meet state standards. But since HAVA passed, 18 states have adopted the same type of voting equipment for every jurisdiction in the state: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah and Vermont. Colorado is moving in that direction as well, having selected a voting system and vendor in 2015. Counties are providing the funds for the purchase of the new system and will be buying it in waves over the next several years.

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