The last time voting technology was updated in California was 2002. That’s four presidential elections with the same voting machines each time.
In Sacramento County, vote-counting machines have paths worn into the trays that hold ballots to be scanned, often causing ballots to fray as they pass through machines.
Counties normally administer most election activities and cover the costs associated with them. States have specific requirements about elections, costing about $30 million a year. However, the state and federal governments do not regularly pay for elections, leaving counties with large modernization bills.
Assembly Bill 668, the Voting Modernization Bond Act of 2018, would change all that. The bill would allow the state to sell $450 million in bonds that would be spent upgrading voting technology after a two-thirds vote in both houses and passage as a proposition by direct vote of the people.
The bill was sent Wednesday to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee and the Standing Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments after leaving the Assembly on May 31.
“We have a responsibility and a duty to modernize our voting equipment for future elections,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla wrote in a press release. “An investment in modern voting systems will help protect the integrity of our elections and better serve voters. California counties alone cannot bear the financial burden of purchasing the new systems. And we cannot afford to wait for funding from the federal government.”
The Legislative Analyst’s Office, a nonpartisan state office that researches legislation and budget issues, recommended modernizing voting systems through a one-time state-funded program.
Many voting machines have exceeded their intended lifespan, breaking down when manufacturers no longer make replacement parts.
The money would be spent on early voting options and same-day voter registration. Vote centers, cybersecurity, and ballot access in multiple languages and accessibility would be included in the upgrade. No vendors or contracts have been discussed.
Vote centers are similar to polling places but offer more services and are open longer, as required by SB 450 of 2016.