Many voting machines in Massachusetts will need to be replaced to support RCV, but 1) most of our voting machines are antiquated and in dire need of upgrade anyway; and 2) it will cost the state and taxpayer next to nothing to purchase new machines, thanks to available federal funding for voting system modernization.
Voting machines in Massachusetts are in rough shape. According to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice, we are one of only 14 states using machines that are more than 15 years old. Over 90% of our voting machines are no longer manufactured and fail to meet even the 2005 federal certification guidelines. In 2014, the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) called the state of voting machines in our state and country an “impending crisis.”
The good news is that money to upgrade them is ready and available by way of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). According to the 2016 annual expenditure report from the U.S. Electoral Assistance Commission, Massachusetts has over $43.4 million in unused HAVA funds, more than any other state, plus an additional award of $8.3 million in 2018, bringing us to $51.7 million we can use for voting machines upgrades without taxpayer expense.
There are only two modern voting machines authorized for use in Massachusetts — the ImageCast Precinct by Dominion and the DS200 by ES&S — and they both support RCV. Upgrading our more than 2000 outdated voting machines to the DS200 would cost about $12 million, less than a quarter of our available HAVA funds. Leasing them would cost about $1.9 million per year. Upgrading to ImageCast Precinct machines would cost about $16 million.
We anticipate additional voter education costs of about $500,000 for the first election cycle, or about 7 cents per resident, and the education costs could possibly be covered by HAVA funds, as well. New machines would also enable more municipalities to switch to RCV, which could render a net savings to cities by eliminating the need for their costly preliminary elections.