By Dorronda Bordley
As the investigation of Russia’s role in the 2016 Presidential election continues, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finally announced which states experienced hacking attempts within the last year. Among those targeted was Delaware. With only three Electoral College votes and a consistent Democratic voting record in the last seven presidential elections, it is bizarre to see Delaware in the company of swing states like Wisconsin, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. However, unlike Virginia, which is updating its voting system to ensure election security, Delaware is updating its voting system for a very different reason: efficiency.
In March of this year, the Delaware Voting Machine Task Force met for the first time to discuss a strategy in updating Delaware’s voting machines. Currently, Delaware has about 1,600 Danaher ELECTronic 1242 voting machines, which were state of the art—back in 1995. However, 22 years later, organizations such as the ACLU, the Delaware Alliance for Community Advancement, and the League of Women Voters are requesting these machines be replaced. Aside from outdated machines, Delaware is just one of five states without a voter-verified paper trail, providing another reason to update the current system.
One would think purchasing new voting machines would be a simple task, but the Voting Machine Task Force faces many challenges. First, a new voting system would cost the Diamond State about $15 million to $25 million. This number is even more disconcerting as lawmakers expect to face another budget gap in its upcoming legislative session. Another issue is deciding which new system to implement. Delaware election commissioner, Elaine Manlove, believes that electronic poll books are the best way to do it and would speed up Delaware’s voting process. These E-poll books scan voter’s driver’s licenses, report who votes, and provide real-time updates online. However, with over 50% of Delawareans projected be 40 years or older in 2020, a new high-tech system may lead to even more complications. A final issue the Task Force faces is when the new voting machines will come into effect. Although the Task Force held its first meeting in March 2017, it did not meet again until August. In its upcoming October meeting, the Taskforce is scheduled to finally decide its budget and complete its Request for Proposal form. Initially, the election commissioner hoped the project would be complete by the 2018 elections. However, due to delays in planning, the machines are more likely to be used for the first time in the 2020 Presidential Election.
Despite these obstacles, the threat of election security should prompt the Task Force, as well as the legislature, to accelerate the adoption of a new voting system. Although Delaware is small, the voice of its citizens should be protected the same as any other state. Some may argue “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”. However, when it comes to an important task, such as voting for the future leaders of the country and states, it is imperative that state officials take all precautions to protect the right to vote. Hopefully, the new system will improve public trust in Delaware’s voting operations and make citizens ask: Who would dare hack Delaware?