Our poor old voting machines

They really do need to be retired.

A national spotlight fell on Texas’ voting equipment last week after some voters complained that their votes on electronic voting machines had changed.

State election officials chalked it up to user error.

Critics alleged malfeasance or a software bug.

The Austin-based company behind the machines says an important piece of context is missing from this debate: these machines are 16 years old.

“It’s very much like someone calling Apple and asking for support on their iPhone 1,” said Steven Sockwell, vice president of marketing at Hart InterCivic.

Most Texas counties last upgraded their electronic voting machines well over a decade ago, tapping billions in funds Congress approved to upgrade voting equipment around the country following election irregularities during the 2000 presidential election. Dozens of Texas counties purchased Hart’s eSlate machines.


While Sockwell said that the eSlate machines “have not been performing any differently” than they have in previous elections, he said it is time for municipalities to upgrade to Hart’s newer voter system, which is called Verity. The eSlate machines generally have a lifespan of between 10 and 15 years, he said, though he added that they do not stop working after 15 years.

[Rice computer science professor Dan] Wallach said that he is surprised that Texas’ eSlate machines have lasted as long as they have.

“We’ve got eSlates that are over 10 years old and in some cases approaching 20 years,” Wallach said. “Normally, computers don’t last that long.”

See here for the background. For the record, the first iPhones came out in 2007, so these machines are mostly at least five years older than that. However you view their utility and security today, the day is coming – likely soon – when we will have no choice but to replace these machines. At some point, they’re just not going to work anymore.

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4 Responses to Our poor old voting machines

  1. Ross says:

    Buying new machines would cost money without benefiting rich donors, do there won’t be any State money, since Despicable Dan Patrick and his gang think government should only spend money that helps the rich.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    Brazoria County replaced at least some of their machines this year. There was a new system at my local polling place.

  3. voter_worker says:

    According to the Texas SOS, in our area Brazoria, Chambers, San Jacinto and Waller Counties are using Verity machines. https://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/forms/sysexam/voting-sys-bycounty.pdf

  4. Mainstream says:

    I heard Professor Stein say recently that one reason we still have eSlates is that when the warehouse containing them burned down, County Clerk Beverly Kaufmann had the foresight to take out insurance, and so we got new, replacement machines. Our machines thus have less wear and tear, and are likely to be usable longer.

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