The OSET Institute and Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative released a new study today, over a year in development, that provides a business analysis of the structure and outlook of the voting machine industry. Wharton made a 2-minute video overview to provide a very high-level overview. This research collaboration was led by Dr. Lorin Hitt as the Wharton principal investigator (P.I.) and a team of six Wharton student researchers, with domain expertise from the OSET Institute, with our COO and election technology expert Gregory Miller serving as our P.I. The final work product and all editorial decisions were handled solely by Wharton PPI.
A Note About Scope
We recognized there is a larger ecosystem of products and services for election administration. However, given the questions of voting systems and process integrity that arose early on in the 2016 election cycle, we trained our focus on voting systems. Similarly, this study limited our examination to the U.S. market. Both our institutions recognize there is a global market worth examining and appreciate that global market factors could, theoretically, have domestic market impact.
The study provides some insights into what is needed to innovate the industry, which can help improve the integrity and reliability of the nation’s election machinery. In the future, we would like to examine the larger ecosystem and expand research to a global market.
Its well understood within the election professional community, and media has increasingly reported in the past 18-months, that there is an "impending crisis" with the nation's voting machines. The vast majority of machinery on which U.S. elections are administered is reaching the end of its useful life and increasingly dependent on spare parts.
This situation exacerbated an already contentious election. During the 2016 election cycle, citizens in communities without an ample number of working voting machines had to had to endure wait times. Moreover, many who withstood the wait times and issues and did vote lacked confidence in the process. Research indicates that while the majority of Americans indicated they thought the election was fair and about what they expected in terms of experience, one in three Americans who voted in the 2016 presidential contest had concerns about the accuracy of the voting technology used at their polling place, Nearly 80 percent of surveyed voters want to see the U.S. upgrade its election systems. However, innovation in development of higher integrity and more cost effective voting systems has proven elusive.
Much has already been written to inform public policy and assist elections officials in addressing this impending crisis. But what is missing—and what the new Wharton-OSET study provides—is a better understanding, from a business perspective, of what the election technology industry looks like, and what has prevented it from enjoying the robust level of innovation seen in other technology sectors.
We believe the Wharton-OSET industry study will help policymakers, investors, philanthropists, industry participants, and elections administrators recognize the economic challenges, constraints, and opportunities for improving America’s elections infrastructure and ensuring that every person’s vote can be efficiently cast and correctly counted.
We're planning a round table on this new report at the inaugural Global Election Technology (GET) Summit to be held in San Francisco, this coming May 14-16. We'll discuss more about that, and the GET Summit we're co-hosting in a near future article.
We want to give a shout-out to the generous assistance that Verified Voting Foundation provided, along with several election officials and election experts around the country who willing contributed to this research.