Pennsylvania Reaches Milestone with Three-Quarters of Counties Selecting New Voting Systems
HARRISBURG, Pa. (EYT) — Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar announced on Monday that at least 76 percent of counties have taken official action toward selecting new voting systems with advanced security to ensure the integrity of Pennsylvania’s elections.
So far, 51 of the Commonwealth’s 67 counties, including the three most populous — Philadelphia, Allegheny and Montgomery — have voted to either buy or lease a new voting system, or have approved funding for such a system. And 46 counties, or 68 percent, plan to use their new voting systems in the Nov. 5 election.
“County commissioners, election directors and election boards across the commonwealth have shown real leadership in moving this critical modernization forward,” Secretary Boockvar said. “These new voting systems all have a paper record that voters can verify before casting their ballot and that election officials can rely on for recounts and post-election audits. Other improvements make these systems more secure and more accessible for voters with disabilities.”
While the majority of Pennsylvania counties have chosen their new voting systems, Clarion is not among those counties. The current appointed election board, which does not include the commissioners this year as they are all running for election, will be making recommendations, but no decision has been made yet.
“They’ve been meeting all year and looking at them, and they’re going to give us their recommendations,” County Commissioner Ed Heasley told exploreClarion.com.
“We’re going to wait until after Election Day to look at them ourselves and pick something out.”
According to Jean Ann Hitchcock, Director of Elections/Voter Registration for Forest County, their elections board hasn’t yet made a decision yet, either.
“We’re still looking at systems right now,” Hitchcock said.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, along with the U.S. Senate and House intelligence committees and many security experts, have urged states to switch to new voting systems that produce a paper record before the 2020 election.
In April 2018, the Department of State informed counties they must select new voting systems that provide a paper record, meet the latest standards of security and accessibility for people with disabilities, and can be more thoroughly audited than current systems. Counties must choose their new voting systems by Dec. 31, 2019, and implement them no later than the 2020 primary election.
In addition, in Pennsylvania every voting system and paper ballot must include plain text that voters can read to verify their choices before casting their ballot. Election officials will use the plain text to perform pre-election testing and post-election audits and recounts. Every new voting system in Pennsylvania has successfully completed penetration testing, access control testing and testing to ensure that every access point, software and firmware are protected from tampering.
County election directors and commissioners have been dedicated to acquiring systems that best meet their voters’ needs and provide the most secure, auditable, and accessible voting experience to all Pennsylvanians. They have also hosted extensive public voting system expos and poll worker training
In addition, two counties on opposite sides of the state, Philadelphia and Mercer, volunteered to pilot advanced post-election audits this November, which will offer confidence to the voters as well as the opportunity to establish and test real-time best practices. Additional Pennsylvania counties will pilot audits over the next several years, and all counties will employ enhanced audits by the 2022 general election.
Gov. Wolf has committed $14.15 million in federal and state funding to counties for new voting systems. He recently announced the Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority (PEDFA) is working toward issuing a bond for up to $90 million to reimburse counties for at least 60 percent of their actual costs for the systems. Counties can use a statewide purchasing contract to cut through red tape and negotiate the best deal with voting system vendors.
The Department of State continues to investigate and pursue other funding options, including more federal aid. At a Sept. 27 hearing on election security before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Secretary Boockvar testified of the need for a commitment to continuing investment by the federal government.
“We urge you, please, to invest additional funds to ensure (the security and accuracy of the vote) for ourselves and for generations to come,” Secretary Boockvar said. “Our democracy — and bolstering voters’ confidence in their ability to participate fully in that democracy — is worth every dollar.”
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