The Marketplace for Voting Machines Is Heavily Concentrated. What That Means for the 2020 Election


Illustration by Ben Mounsey-Wood

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Northampton County, Pa., rolled out new voting machines in November 2019 as part of a $2.9 million contract with the nation’s largest commercial vendor of voting technology. Like other states responding to 2016 Russian interference, Pennsylvania was in the late stages of a transition to machines with paper trails. In Northampton, the attraction was a roughly $8,000 all-in-one voting machine with ballot-marking, printing, and vote-counting capabilities.

The new machines failed dramatically. Some reported zero votes for a judicial candidate who was later certified the winner. An election commissioner said a machine recorded a vote without her touching the screen. The machines’ paper records allowed an eventual recount, but election night was a fiasco, producing a vote of no confidence in the machines by election officials. The vendor took “full accountability” for what it acknowledged were avoidable human errors in preparing the machines.

Such is

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