House Democrats Express Concerns About Outdated Voting Machines

By Anika Reed

WASHINGTON–Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, joined other House Democrats in a letter Wednesday urging the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the status of voting machine technology and the potential problems posed by using outdated equipment.

Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, signed the letter along with Reps. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, Danny Davis,D-Ill., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, Hank Johnson D-Ga., Robin Kelly, D-Ill. and John Lewis, D-Ga..

The members asked the GAO to review challenges state and local jurisdictions face with aging voting systems, the impact of federal standards on developing new voting systems and benefits and challenges of policies in place regarding voter turnout.

The letter cites a report by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration issued in January 2014, which lists its findings and recommendations to President Barack Obama.

Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 as an attempt to modernize voting technology, including optical scanning and touch screen voting devices.

Many of the voting machines bought with HAVA funds are reaching their 10-year mark and “will reach the end of their natural life and require replacement,” according to the commission’s report. The commission and the House Democrats called for new voting equipment as a solution to the older systems.

The commission’s report calls for recommendations such as expansion of online voter registration, improvement of access to the polls, improved management of polling centers and reforms of the standards of obtaining and certifying new voting technology.

Maryland is one of the states included in the letter to the U.S. Comptroller General that was said to not have enough voting machines, citing an article on The article said there were not enough machines per voter and that 20 out of the state’s 24 jurisdictions failed to meet the standard of at least one touchscreen machine for every 200 registered voters in 2012.

But Deputy Administrator for the State Board of Elections, Nikki Charlson, disputed the article Wednesday and said all Maryland jurisdictions satisfied the voting machine standards for the 2012 election.

Charlson added, “We’ve signed a contract for new voting systems…We’re implementing them for 2016.”

This new voting system will have a touchscreen component that will mark a paper ballot, which will print out and voters will then feed it into a voting machine.

According to the State Board of Elections’ website, “Maryland’s new voting system produces a voter-verifiable paper record – a “paper trail” – of each voter’s selections.”

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