Just couple of days ago, approximately 118 million people cast votes in the Presidential election. To do so required the use of hundreds of thousands of voting machines. But what happens to these machines now the elections are over and is their maintenance important?
Although the voting machine industry is very small, it plays an obviously critical role in determining the future of country. On average there is about 1 voting machine per 250 registered voters.
The funny part is that despite a $3.9 billion federal investment (in 2002) into upgrading election equipment many voting districts are returning to paper ballots. Much of this is due to the fact that states have very specific election laws that cover the type of equipment that can be used and how that equipment is maintained.
Voting Equipment and Maintenance
Voting machines are relatively simple and may include paper, pencils, punch cards, tables, touch screens and ballot counters. In addition to the physical machines there is software that is used to tabulate and transmit results. The problems that may occur range from improper maintenance to a myriad of human and software issues.
“…. What really happened in Florida is that they didn’t clean their equipment”
Source: Connie McCormack
The quote above is from an interesting article in Popular Mechanics titled Why Don’t We Have Foolproof Voting Machines Yet?. The article provides a number of examples of what can go wrong and why. The article highlights the problems with technology when used on a truly national scale.
Who performs the maintenance is another issue. With many states and counties having severe financial problems, some counties are opting to perform maintenance with their own staff instead of paying for a service agreement with an approved vendor. This brings into question the integrity and possible tampering.
Voting Machine Facility Maintenance
When voting machines are not being used they must be stored in secure warehouses. In addition to being secured to avoid tampering, warehouse facilities need environmental controls.
Reasons for this include the buildup of dust which collects moisture and begins the corrosion process as well scheduled preventive maintenance such as lubrications, inspections, software updates and testing.
The bottom line is that whatever machinery/technology is being used, maintenance must be performed. Considering the 2000 Presidential election was won by 547 votes (The Florida fiasco), I would say maintenance can make a pretty big difference.
The CMMS Solution for Voting Equipment
One solution for better voting equipment maintenance is for Federal, State and Local governments to use computerized maintenance management software (CMMS). Using a CMMS has several distinct advantages which include:
- The ability to schedule all maintenance and inspections on voting equipment to help keep operating expenses in check.
- The ability to track the location and condition of every piece of equipment. This includes knowing if equipment is in a warehouse or at a voting precinct and knowing the last time maintenance was performed and by whom.
- The ability to forecast when the equipment will need to be replaced based on its condition and maintenance history.
- Being able to assign accountability for the operating condition of voting equipment
- Better document and contract handling for more efficient and effective response to issues.
We hope that your voting experience was good this year. If you ran into machine issues we would love to hear about them.