As one of the most contentious U.S. presidential elections in recent times approaches, U.S. election officials raise concerns about the reliability of the nation's aging voting machines. Diane Hodges reports.
After a bruising presidential campaign, voters are finally getting ready to make their choices on November 8th. But many will be entering their decisions into electronic voting machines. And, in many places, there's no way to know whether their votes will be tallied accurately. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID BJERKE, DIRECTOR OF ELECTIONS FOR THE CITY OF FALLS CHURCH IN VIRGINIA, SAYING: "We're not able to give them a voter verified paper trail." The city of Falls Church, Virginia uses older machines that produce no paper trail. Without one, it's impossible for a voter to know that their vote was recorded accurately. And Falls Church isn't alone. Dozens of other places in Virginia use older paperless voting machines. The state's elections commissioner has been pushing lawmakers to approve funding for new equipment. But the Republican-controlled legislature has failed to approve the request. That means it's up to individual localities to foot the bill... and many don't have the money. SOUNDBITE: EDGARDO CORTES, VIRGINIA ELECTIONS COMMISSIONER, SAYING: "It's a pretty big investment to purchase voting equipment and so a lot of localities, it's been a financial issue." Many aging voting machines are also no longer in production. So finding a spare part to repair a broken machine can be difficult. SOUNDBITE: SPOONER HULL, OWNER OF ATLANTIC ELECTION SERVICES, SAYING: "I am simply canabalizing them for parts." Spooner Hull sells and services voting machines in Virginia. His inventory includes aging electronic voting machines that were built in the 1990's... still being used by four jurisdictions in Virginia. SOUNDBITE: SPOONER HULL, OWNER OF ATLANTIC ELECTION SERVICES, SAYING: "These are parts that I have taken off dead machines." And Virginia isn't the only state relying on antiquated equipment. A report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University finds 43 states will be using machines that are at least 10 years old. SOUNDBITE: CHRISTOPHER FAMIGHETTI, VOTING RIGHTS RESEARCHER AND CO-AUTHOR OF REPORT, SAYING: "Electronic voting machines are essentially computers. We don't expect our laptops or our desktops to last a decade and that's the kind of technology these machines are using." Outdated technology that some security experts say is easy for hackers to access. SOUNDBITE: JOSEPH LORENZO HALL, CHIEF TECHNOLOGIST AT THE CENTER FOR DEMOCRACY AND TECHNOLOGY, SAYING: "Anybody with a sufficient amount of resources and with the motivation can cause chaos in elections and the problem here is that election officials aren't trained to defend computer systems, they aren't trained to do those things, they're trained to run elections." Some areas are turning to innovation to solve the problem. Los Angeles County is working on a system that uses a tablet-like touchscreen that can be upgraded and modified as technology advances. Election officials hope to start testing the new machines in 2018...halfway through the next president's first term in office.