With millions of customers in multiple
states out of electricity following Superstorm Sandy, how will
electronic voting machines operate in the event some polling
places in Pennsylvania and other states do not have power restored
in time for next Tuesday's Presidential Election?
VotePA today announced a warning
that, should this become a problem next week, the answer is not
to rely on batteries to run voting machines for all or even
a substantial part of Election Day.
"Officials in Pennsylvania,
West Virginia, and other states affected by Sandy, including
our PA Governor Tom Corbett, have been quoted in the press as
saying that batteries could potentially run their equipment through
the day," said VotePA Executive Director Marybeth Kuznik.
"We believe that depending on aging batteries to allow voting
for any extended length of time would be incredibly foolish during
an important national and statewide election."
Kuznik, who is a 20-year District
Election Board member and has observed nearly two dozen voting
system examinations by the Pennsylvania Department of State,
explained that vendors supply voting machines with 'backup' batteries
to protect the memory and allow short periods of casting ballots
in event of a power outage during a voting day. These batteries
are not generally designed to run the machine for hours and hours,
and certainly not for an entire election.
Kuznik went on to explain that
voting machine batteries lose the ability to hold a full charge
as they age, just like batteries in cell phones and laptop computers.
Even so-called "new" batteries that have been sitting
on a shelf for several years may not hold as much charge as they
did when they were first manufactured.
With voting machines purchased
by counties under the Help America Vote Act now in their seventh
year of use, and some counties' equipment even older, battery
capacity could potentially be far less than what is expected.
"VotePA strongly urges
any county that has polling places without power to obtain a
generator to run the voting machines, and/or to consider using
paper ballots," Kuznik said. "Do not rely on these
voting machine batteries for any extended period of time."
Kuznik also pointed out that
in addition to power for the voting machines, with the shorter
daylight hours of November, lighting in the polling places will
also be needed.
"While Pennsylvania still
has a 1937 law* on its books requiring a lantern to illuminate
polling places, electric lights are obviously much better,"
Kuznik added, "we hope
no polling place will be without power next Tuesday, but if that
happens, a safely-operated generator providing power to both
the voting machines and electric lights will be a much stronger
choice than relying on aging batteries and 1937-era lanterns."
"The most important thing
is for voters to come out and vote," she said. "Don't
let a storm like Sandy or anything else deny you your voice in