Last updated on: 4/23/2008 | Author:

If There Were a Power Failure, Would Using Electronic Voting Machines Be Possible?

PRO (yes)


The Maryland State Board of Elections included a “Frequently Asked Questions” section on their Maryland Votes website (accessed Sep. 28, 2006) which stated:

“What would happen if there is a power failure on Election Day? Voting would continue, and no votes would be lost. Each voting unit has a back-up battery, and each battery is fully charged when the polls open. If, for any reason, the battery cannot provide sufficient power, no additional voting would occur on that particular unit but all votes previously cast would be stored on the unit.”

Sep. 28, 2006 - Maryland State Board of Elections


San Mateo County (California) Elections Office explained in the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of their website (accessed Sep. 28, 2006):

“All data is protected and cannot be lost in the unlikely event that the [Hart InterCivic eSlate] system fails. The system also has a battery back-up that immediately engages if an electrical failure should occur. The batteries last for 18 hours of continuous use.”

Sep. 28, 2006 - San Mateo County (California) Elections Office


Sequoia Voting Systems, an electronic voting machine manufacturer, described the following features of it AVC Edge model of electronic voting machine on its website (accessed Sep. 28, 2006):

“[The AVC Edge] operates on 110v AC as well as 13v DC [power]. It automatically switches to DC back-up power in the event AC power is lost – without interrupting operation. Three levels of battery back-up exist in the AVC Edge: The AVC Edge has one standard internal two-hour back-up battery that is recharged when the machine is plugged into AC power; there is an optional second two-hour back-up battery that is recharged when the AVC Edge is plugged into AC power; there is an optional external 16-hour battery pack.”

Sep. 28, 2006 - Sequoia Voting Systems


Advanced Voting Solutions, a manufacturer of electronic voting machines, explained in the product description of their WINvote electronic voting system on their website (accessed Sep. 28, 2006):

“Each WINvote ballot station contains an 11.25 volt 6.6 amp hour smart lithium ion battery capable of maintaining operational readiness for a period of three to five hours, depending upon the frequency of voter interaction and the type of functions required of the system during battery operation. While connected to available electrical outlets, the WINvote unit battery is constantly charging and remains operational should electrical power fail. The switchover to battery power is automatic; no human intervention is required. There is no impact to a unit or a ballot being voted, therefore, should the power fail at the precinct or should a unit become unplugged.”

Sep. 28, 2006 - Advanced Voting Solutions, Inc. (FKA: R.F. Shoup Corporation)

CON (no)


Ellen Theisen, CEO of the Vote-PAD Company, stated in her 2005 report “Myth Breakers: Facts About Electronic Elections”:

“Most touch screen voting machines have backup electrical power that is provided by means of an internal, rechargeable battery… Unfortunately, on the morning of an election, the batteries in these voting machines might be either partially or fully discharged. In some cases, voting machines may have batteries that are no longer able to take a charge if the machines have been stored for long in an unpowered state…

Many of these machines used sealed lead acid batteries, which will discharge over time. The longer they remain uncharged, the less able they are to be fully recharged…

In those cases where a battery has been fully discharged and is unable to take a charge, if the power goes out, the voting machine may shut down without any warning. If this occurs while voters are in the midst of casting their votes, they will be left in limbo, not knowing whether or not their vote has been cast. They will have no way of finding out until power is restored, and it is unlikely that they will be able to remain at the polling place waiting for that to happen. The votes of such voters will thus likely be lost.”

2005 - Ellen Theisen, MA


Aviel Rubin, PhD, Technical Director of the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute, in a Sep. 20, 2006 interview with Computerworld magazine, stated:

“I plugged in one machine to the wall and daisy chained the rest of them. But the plug had no power, and we didn’t realize it for a couple of hours. There are four hours of battery power, and after that they all would have crashed if I hadn’t noticed they were all going down. It would have been a mess – we wouldn’t have known what state they were in when they crashed. If they lose power, it’s not clear the information will come back, like with a hard drive.”

Sep. 20, 2006 - Aviel D. Rubin, PhD


Bev Conover, Editor and Publisher of The Online Journal, explained in her Sep. 19, 2002 article “Does Florida’s Latest Election Fiasco Portend Another Bush Theft In November?”:

“Glitches with improper or inadequate power supplies to run the touch screens in a number of Miami-Dade precincts caused voting to be halted when the backup batteries were drained – voting was suspended from 11 AM to 4:30 PM at the Crowder Elementary School until a technician arrived to revive the system, causing hundreds of voters, who may not have returned later, to be turned away.”

Sep. 19, 2002 - Bev Conover