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Broken Voting Machines Across U.S. (In Other Words, Everything is Normal)

Polls have been open for less than two hours, and we’re seeing reports from all over the country about broken machines and scanners causing long voting lines. So far, we’ve seen the most reports in New York, Illinois, North Carolina, Kentucky, Texas and Ohio.

Experts say broken machines are normal on Election Day, and they should not stop voters from ultimately casting ballots. So far, everyone who reported problems was able to vote even if there was a longer-than-expected wait.

David Becker, the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, says that every precinct should have a secure box to deposit ballots that can be scanned later if a machine is broken. “This should not slow anything down in these places,” he said.

In places with touch screen voting booths, a broken machine might slow the process because they’ll need to use paper ballots which take longer to process.

Lawrence Norden, the deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU told Univision that aging machines mean we should expect breakdowns. “Machines don’t last that long,” he said. “Sometimes they are 10 years old or more. You wouldn’t keep a laptop that long.” But most issues, he said, can be addressed immediately by a poll worker.

Becker says that all precincts should have some form of replacement ballot should machines have problems. “I do not know of a place without back up paper ballots,” he said. Unless a place runs out of ballots — and they shouldn’t — voting should continue as normal.

Becker adds that there are probably 100,000 electronic voting machines across the country, and that a few dozen will inevitably have problems. This should not concern voters unless they are denied the ability to cast a ballot altogether.

If you are in a place with a broken machine and are turned away, or you feel your ballot is being insecurely stored, please let us know.

About Electionland

ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

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