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Michigan will spend up to $82 million on new voting machines

steve carmody
Michigan Radio
New voting machines should be in place for the August primary, the state says

More than a decade since Michigan last replaced its voting machines, the state is spending up to $82 million on new voting machines over the next two years.

“You know, they’re computers, right?” says Chris Thomas, the Michigan elections director. “And like any kind of hardware and software, they’ve got a shelf life.

“It’s pretty standard across the country that 10 years is when you start reaching that outer limit and start seeing a few more problems on Election Day and whatnot.”

But Thomas says problems that turned up in the partial recount of Michigan’s 2016 ballots cast had more to do with training than technology. There aren’t many complaints about the current, aging machines malfunctioning, he says.

“You know, if we waited a couple more election cycles, you would then be hearing that, I believe, that it might start to impact the integrity,” Thomas says.

These new machines will still optically scan paper ballots filled out by voters, Thomas says, but they’ll be more reliable and have updated operating systems. The first machines could be in place in time for the August primaries, with all of them up and running for the 2018 race.

Meanwhile, report is expected to be released in the next week or two that looks specifically at Election Day problems in Detroit.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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