On Election Day, a stunning majority of Americans will be voting on machines that are so old, they are no longer manufactured, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
Illinois and Indiana are among the 43 states with outdated equipment, the report said.
“We are relying on equipment that is pre-Bush v. Gore, that is pre-iPhone,” said Noah Praetz, Director of Elections of suburban Cook County. “It is damaging to confidence when you touch a screen and it lights up and marks somewhere else.”
Cook County commissioners recently approved funding for new voting machines, which Praetz estimated should be up and running by early next year. Praetz also said the upgraded equipment will allow the county to conduct modern audits, which is a crucial piece to election security.
NBC 5 Investigates sent an anonymous survey to Illinois’ 108 local elections authorities to gauge cyber-security preparedness ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Of the half that responded, nearly two-thirds said they need to upgrade their voting machines but don’t have the money to do so.
The federal government recently earmarked $380 million in grants for state election security. Illinois’ piece of the pie, with a small state match, is about $14 million to be used to shore up election security and other upgrades. Indiana was eligible for $7.6 million.
It’s not enough money for needed upgrades, experts said. One estimates the federal government would need to invest close to $5 billion to properly secure elections.
“It is literally impossible to defend yourselves 100 percent of the time from a determined nation state,” said Jake Braun, Executive Director of the Cyber Policy Initiative at the University of Chicago.
While dated, voting machines in Illinois and Indiana are not connected to the internet, which makes vote manipulation very difficult, experts said.
However, Indiana is among thirteen states that use paperless voting machines, which do not provide a record for reliable post-election audits, in some or all polling places. All votes in Illinois are backed up by paper ballots.
“States that don’t have paper ballots are flying completely blind right now,” Braun said. “They have no idea if someone’s hacked their machines.”