The vast majority of voting technology used in California is from the late 1990s or early 2000s. Much of the equipment has reached the end of its useful life. The age and lack of replacement parts decreases the reliability and security of the equipment.
The Budget includes a one-time augmentation of $134.3 million General Fund to support the purchase of all necessary hardware, software, and initial licensing for the replacement of voting systems and technology in all 58 counties. This funding represents a 50-percent state share of total voting system replacement costs; counties will be responsible for the other 50 percent. [p.121]
Secretary of State Alex Padilla hailed the proposal:
I applaud Governor Brown for including $134.3 million for new voting systems in his state budget proposal. Governor Brown is once again leading the way. This is an essential and timely investment in our democracy. Aging voting systems are one of the gravest threats to the integrity of our elections.
It has been over 15 years since Congress approved significant funding for voting systems to help improve election administration. We have a responsibility to modernize our voting equipment to ensure the security of our elections, to expand voting opportunities, and to improve disability and language access. Governor Brown clearly understands that an investment in voting systems is an investment in the voter experience and the health of our democracy.
Los Angeles County’s Dean Logan, President of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials, was similarly enthusiastic:
We are encouraged by the Governor’s inclusion of funding for voting system upgrades and replacement in the proposed budget. It is a significant move in the right direction for the state to begin funding critical infrastructure for secure, transparent elections in California.
It is incumbent upon counties and election officials to provide the electorate with options for voting that are responsive to voter behavior and advancements in technology. At the same time, we must be diligent and adaptive in responding to security threats and the need to appropriately protect voter data.
The funding included in the Governor’s proposed budget signals the spirit of collaboration needed to ensure the integrity of our elections. This is an important starting point and we stand ready to work with the Governor, the Secretary of State and the Legislature to move this forward.
This is still just a proposal – meaning that there are miles to go in the Legislature before this money becomes a reality, plus the match requirement could be an issue for some counties – but the fact that this money is included at all is still a tremendous development. I’ve written several times in the past (most recently April 2017) about counties’ efforts to address unfunded election mandates through the budget process; while this budget doesn’t solve all of those problems, it’s a huge first step.
I’ll be curious to see what happens with this proposal as the budget makes its way through the Legislature. Stay tuned…