Election Technology: A Space Opera

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

The US Supreme Court decided on a 5-4 vote to close the book on one of the most contentious elections in United States history.

This week marks the anniversary of the Bush v. Gore decision. Fifteen years ago a legal battle of galactic proportions erupted. Amended vote returns in Florida and hanging chads ended with a controversial court decision but unified skepticism of the reliability and accuracy of America’s voting systems.

A new hope arrived in 2002, the Help America Vote Act. With all the precision of a well-aimed proton torpedo down a thermal exhaust port, the US Congress passed a comprehensive voter modernization to help the rebel alliance… uh… states upgrade their voting machines, update their registration processes and poll worker training, and create the Election Assistance Commission. Individual states received authorization from the federal government for funds, Nebraska receiving over $15M to purchase automark machines and vote tabulators.

But now, fifteen years later, the money is gone and the machines have all the youth and vigor of Emperor Palpatine. With no funds expected from Congress, Nebraska election officials find themselves alone, on the budgetary equivalent of the ice planet Hoth. By 2020 election officials and state senators could be looking at a Wampa $20-25M price-tag to replace outdated election equipment – while simultaneously fighting over who foots the bill. This is a discussion that needs to happen today, not tomorrow, not in a galaxy far, far away.

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