Sending Out an S-O-S for Voting Machines

Mar 5, 2015

Voting machines stored in a Louisiana warehouse

Addressing the House and Governmental Affairs committee Wednesday, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler sent out an S-O-S on the condition of the state’s stock of voting machines.

“I just will tell you that it’s getting a little scary out there,” Schedler said, reminding lawmakers, “Voting machine equipment is all 15-20 years, plus.”

Sulphur Rep. Mike Danahay, part of a contingent that’s been investigating new voting technology with Schedler, noted, “They’re having to scavenge parts off old machines to keep the current machines running.”

Schedler also said parish registrars are having more and more problems with the laptops they use for tabulating votes cast during elections, and transmitting the results to his office.

“They’re seven or eight years old,” Schedler said. “Can you imagine using a laptop seven or eight years old? That’s what we’re doing.”

Schedler says the next generation of voting machines makes use of the same technology consumers are embracing. He says the most fiscally efficient replacement for the machines the state now uses is moving to tablets, which can then have voting software installed.

“A voting machine costs roughly $5,200. We have, what? 10,000, 12,000 of them?”

Schedler explained, “This new system would be something that we buy — literally — from Office Depot or a state vendor for less than $300.”

The problem with replacing the aging voting machines is — of course — money. The federal government used to help pay for voting equipment, but no longer. And the state certainly doesn’t have any funding to spare. But Schedler says the issue is closing in on critical mass.

“We’re going to have to find some way, somehow, to get this done,” Schedler insisted. “I’m not proposing doing it in one year. We’ll probably do it over a two year period. And we’re going to have to find some inventive way of financing how we’re going to do it.”

When asked for suggestions of possible funding options, Schedler says the only immediate solution he sees is the same one he gave the Jindal administration, regarding budget cuts.

“Elections — have less of ‘em,” Schedler said. “You save millions of dollars.”