The State Bond Commission is scheduled to allocate $25 million to replace outdated voting machines used at polling locations across Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont announced in a Wednesday press release.
The funding is expected to be released when the commission, which Lamont chairs, meets on Oct. 6. The borrowing will cover the cost of thousands of traditional tabulators and dozens of high-speed machines used to count absentee ballots, according to the release.
“The machines we use to record votes are the backbone of our election system, and it is essential that we provide election officials with the equipment they need to tabulate results with accuracy and timeliness,” Lamont said. “Although our existing machines continue to function, they are more than 17 years old and election officials tell us that they are starting to show their age.”
The news follows requests by Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas, who has called for weeks on the commission to release the funding in time to install new machines before the 2024 elections.
In April, Thomas told lawmakers the company that manufactured the tabulators had gone out of business, making it nearly impossible for her office to find replacement parts when a machine breaks down. Election officials have resorted to attempting to buy old machines on Ebay to use for parts, she said.
“They’ve become unreliable and unserviceable,” she said. “It’s old technology. There’s frequent jamming.”
Following the release of the funds, Thomas’ office will solicit bids from manufacturers. Lamont’s office said Wednesday that the purchase will supply new machines to every municipality and represented the first time in 17 years the state replaced all of its tabulators.
“Implementing a statewide replacement of all these machines now will ensure that election workers continue to have the tools they need to conduct an Election Day that runs smooth and free of any glitches that could potentially be caused by outdated technology,” Lamont said.
The news was met with suspicion from Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, who issued a press release suggesting the timing of the announcement was related to Tuesday’s special legislative session when the legislature’s majority Democrats declined to adopt several Republican amendments including a proposed ban on absentee ballot dropboxes.
Republicans argued the changes were necessary given allegations of absentee ballot fraud in Bridgeport’s Democratic primary election.
“Interesting timing,” Kelly said. “Less than 24 hours after majority Democrats declined to act on a variety of Republican proposals to instill trust, faith and confidence among voters in the electoral system, we see a push for more reliable voting machines.”