North Dakota failures prompt call for new election equipment before 2020

Election day 2018
In November, Fargo voters OK'd a ballot measure to make the city the first in the U.S. to adopt approval voting. Forum file photo

FARGO — After several North Dakota counties experienced multiple equipment failures during the 2018 election, coordinators hope lawmakers will approve a bill with funding for new equipment by 2020.

The current Secretary of State’s budget bill includes about $11 million in funding — $8 million in state funds and the remainder through federal money — for a new and updated statewide election system.

About 27 out of 249 election tabulators, or “ballot scanners,” across 16 different counties failed during the 2018 general and primary elections, according to a survey by the North Dakota Association of Counties.

“It’s obsolete equipment,” said DeAnn Buckhouse, Cass County election coordinator. “It was never designed to be used for 20 years.”

The funding money will cover not only hardware, but also software, Buckhouse said. County coordinators currently use a program that runs on Windows 7 to aggregate election data to submit onto the Secretary of State’s website after polling stations close.


After Jan. 1, Microsoft will no longer support regular updates and security measures for Windows 7, which increases security problems come election time, she said.

Updated equipment is necessary because more issues will arise the longer aging equipment is used.

“Any equipment failure at polling locations is not what we want to happen,” Buckhouse said. “It reduces voter confidence when they have equipment that fails.”

Donnell Persky Hushka, government and public relations specialist with the North Dakota Association of Counties, said the Secretary of State’s budget bill is currently in the House Appropriation Committee for review, after which it will be presented on the House floor for a full vote.

“It is critical that new equipment is able to be used for the election in 2020,” Hushka said.

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