Rep. Johnson Introduces Bill to Upgrade Aging, Outdated Voting Machines

April 29, 2016
Press Release

Brennan Center for Justice: America’s Voting Machines at Risk

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04) today introduced the “Verifying Optimal Tools for Elections Act of 2016 or (VOTE Act: H.R. 5131),” which would allocate more than $125 million dollars in HAVA (Help America Vote Act) grants to assist states in replacing old, outdated voting machines.

“This bill is based on more than 10 months of in-depth independent research, and interviews with more than 100 election officials and specialists in all 50 states that indicate our outdated voting machines pose an impending crisis,” Johnson said.

According to a study by New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice: “43 states will use electronic voting machines that are at least 10 years old, perilously close to the end of most systems’ expected lifespan. 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.”

Johnson said there is no time to lose. By providing just a fraction of the estimated $1 billion it will cost to replace outdated machines, we can begin to address the issue.

“The longer we wait to invest in our voting machine infrastructure, the more problems we will face,” said Johnson. “More than 30 states want to upgrade their voting machines in the next five years, but most of them don’t know where they’ll get the resources to do it. Let’s help them modernize their systems and bring our voting machines into the 21st century.”

Johnson is particularly concerned by the study that indicated that “without federal or state funding, wealthier counties will replace aging machines, while poorer counties will be forced to use them far longer than they should.”

“With limited money to replace outdated machines, poorer counties and urban centers, often with more minority voters, will suffer longer delays and critical breakdowns,” he said. “The VOTE Act will ensure that every vote is counted and every voice is heard.”

The VOTE Act would:

-- Amend the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 to create a $125 million grant program that will be used to replace machines that were at least six years old in the 2012 General Election. The section will match state funds at a rate of 2-1;

-- Create a grant program through the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) that may be used to reimburse states for trainings and courses to teach election officials better machine maintenance, pre and post-election testing, development of contingency plans and poll worker training.  $50 million will authorize for this initiative for fiscal years 2017-2018;

-- States will also be able to apply for $20 million HAVA funds to develop new open-source voter technology, like those used in Los Angeles, California, and Travis County, Texas.  Non-proprietary, open source software is imperative for next generation voting machines to ensure that this technology can be easily managed, reviewed, and improved;

-- Finally, the bill will dictate that upon passage of the VOTE Act, jurisdictions and parties to a recount or election contest proceeding would have access to the voting system software used in the election being contested, leading to a timely resolution of the contest or recount. To respond to trade secret concerns, the legislation would direct the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to devise guidelines on who could view the code, and the circumstances under which it could be viewed.


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