Aging voting machines raise concerns in Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Nearly decade-old voting technology used in Ohio and elsewhere is raising concerns among elections officials who say the machines may be nearing the end of their lifespans and at risk of problems in the next few years.

Many Ohio counties can't afford to replace the machines, though they're expected to be sufficient for the next election, The Columbus Dispatch reported (

Some counties take a "Band-Aid" approach by using outdated equipment to replace broken machines, said Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Election Officials.

They don't have much incentive to update because the technology hasn't changed significantly since federal government certification standards were last revised in 2005, the newspaper said.

Ohio spent $115 million for touchscreen and ballot-scanning equipment between 2005 and 2006 after the federal government provided billions of dollars to state for voting system upgrades following problems during the 2000 election.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said he thinks federal officials should help address concerns about the aging technology by paying for new equipment or easing standards about what states use.

"There's nothing to panic about today, but we ought not to wait until there's a major breakdown in an election to act," Husted said.

Replacing the machines would cost millions of dollars. For the Columbus area, Franklin County Board of Elections Dana Walch estimates replacing the more than 4,700 touchscreen machines in the county would cost $15 million.

The lifespan of computerized voting equipment is shorter than that of the punch-card or lever systems that preceded it, and that could mean problems if officials put off upgrades.

"You're putting the integrity of the whole process at risk, and if it fails in a close election, then everybody's unhappy," said Doug Lewis, head of the National Association of Election Officials, a group of government employees who monitor election administration.