Report: 2016 voting machines in bad shape

Aging equipment could translate to concrete problems on Election Day, a new report says.

Story highlights

  • Forty-three states are using voting machines that will be at least a decade old in 2016
  • In 14 states, the voting machines will 15 years old or more

Washington (CNN)When Americans head to the polls for the 2016 election, much of the equipment they'll be casting their votes on is woefully out of date, according to a new report.

And that could mean a big risk, New York University's Brennan Center for Justice is warning in the report out Tuesday, both in terms of crashes causing long lines and lost votes and in terms of security risks to the system.
"Our voting equipment is old and past its usefulness," U.S. Election Assistance Commissioner Tom Hicks told researchers. "We're getting by with Band-Aids, but I worry about a crisis with some of the older machines."
    In the report, "America's Voting Machines at Risk," researchers found that 43 states are using voting machines that will be at least a decade old in 2016 -- with the majority of them having the old machines in most election districts. The lifespan of a voting machine is 10 to 20 years, but experts caution that, like a laptop or computer, 10 years is already a long time to rely on a technology.
    In 14 states, the voting machines will 15 years old or more, Brennan Center said.
    Voting machines also go out of production, and an estimated 43 states and D.C. are using some models that are no longer made -- making it difficult to find replacement parts when they break down.
    The aging equipment could translate to concrete problems on Election Day, Brennan warns. If machines crash, they could cause back-ups and long lines at the polls as well possibly deleting votes.
    And the older the electronic machine, the greater the risk of security flaws that could be exploited by hackers to manipulate voting data.
    Part of the problem is that officials lack the resources to upgrade their voting technology, researchers found based on the surveys underlying the report.
    Brennan estimates that upgrading America's voting technology could cost more than $1 billion, depending on how it's financed.
    While jurisdictions in at least 31 states want to buy new voting machines soon, officials in 22 states said they didn't know how to get the money to allow it.
    Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002, which called for upgrading voting infrastructure and provided the money to do it. But now, the machines purchased in that round of upgrades are in need of replacement, and Congress hasn't given more money to the cause, researchers wrote.
    "Some jurisdictions seem to be saying, 'We're just going to wait until another catastrophe and then maybe Congress will pay for it,'" Tammy Patrick, a Democracy Project senior adviser and former elections official, told researchers. "This is not a good plan."