Virginia residents wait in line in the pre dawn hours to vote in the presidential election the Hunter House at Nottoway Park in Vienna, Va. on Nov. 6, 2012.
Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Virginia to spend $28 million to upgrade voting machines


After problems with its touch screen voting machines last month, Virginia is spending $28 million to upgrade them – and setting an example for other states.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Monday that he’ll include funding in his budget to replace the touch screen machines with state-of-the-art digital scan machines that offer paper trails.

His office said 49 localities across the state had problems with their voting equipment last month. In Virginia Beach, where the governor made the announcement, dozens of voters reported trouble with touch screen machines, with some saying votes for Rep. Scott Rigell, a Republican, were wrongly turned into votes for his Democratic challenger.

Related: Problems reported at polls vary from state to state

The problem led the state GOP to write an emergency letter to the Board of Elections. 

“Participating in our democracy is one of the most important rights we have as citizens of this Commonwealth and country,” said McAuliffe. “However, we cannot expect Virginians to come to the polls on Election Day if we cannot ensure that their votes will be counted correctly and in a timely manner.”

The new machines will allow voters to fill in bubbles on paper ballots, which are then read electronically, ensuring that in the case of a malfunction, there’s a paper record. The money also will go to upgrading the state’s electronic poll-books, and improving the Department of Elections website, which also experienced problems with the surge of traffic on election day.

Virginia is hardly alone in needing to upgrade its antiquated voting technology. After the Florida 2000 fiasco, many states scrapped old-fashioned punch card machines and replaced them with electronic or optical scan machines. Now these machines are a decade old, and are starting to break down—a problem that a bipartisan presidential panel on voting warned about in a report earlier this year.

Election Day was beset by other administrative problems, too – from missing poll books in Connecticut to polling sites being offline in Texas and Florida. The Election Protection Hotline, a phone line for voters to report problems, received over 18,000 calls.