Mankato Free Press | Our View: Voting: Investment in election equipment needed
By Editorial Board, 3/1/17
While the contested presidential election of 2000 may seem like a distant memory, the vote counting mishaps of that time need to be revisited, mostly by upgrading vote-counting equipment.
The Help America Vote Act passed in 2002 was Congress' attempt to make sure our national voting system was sound mechanically and of solid integrity. Congress allocated $3 billion to the states to upgrade all voting equipment. Most of the equipment was purchased by 2005 to 2007 with a 10 to 15 year maximum life, according to Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon.
When it came time to replace and upgrade the equipment, there was no new federal money. So states had to pick up the slack. Simon’s office is backing a bipartisan bill that would allocate about $14 million statewide to upgrade voting equipment. That would go toward a 50-50 match program with counties to share the full $28 million cost of the upgrades.
Much of the money would be spent in outstate counties, as Ramsey, Anoka and much of Hennepin counties have already upgraded their equipment, according to Simon.
It’s a reasonable proposal and one that we urge the Legislature and governor to approve.
Recent news developments have shown the damage that can come from speculation of a suspect election. Unfortunately, that is possible in the United States, says Simon.
When the federal government offered funding for new voting equipment 10 years ago, some states, such as Pennsylvania and Georgia, opted to install touch screen voting that is susceptible to hacking when connected to the internet.
Minnesota still uses paper and pencils for voting. As Simon says, it’s hard to hack paper. And Minnesota’s vote counting machines, by law, cannot be hooked up to the internet.
Others have suggested voter registration lists could be hacked. While Minnesota does keep electronic lists and the database, like any other, could be hacked, the state has hired consultants to test its security. Simon also points out that even if someone were able to erase a list of registered voters, those voters could still register again on Election Day per Minnesota law.
We often take voting for granted in America. But recent events have shown our vulnerabilities. Minnesota is much safer than other states in terms of vote counting. It’s nearly foolproof. But an upgrade to vote counting machines that are near the end of their life seems like a modest investment in securing the integrity of our most important right.