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Panel urges funding for new voting machines in Pennsylvania

Written by Mark Scolforo/The Associated Press | Sep 25, 2018 12:17 PM
susquehanna county voting machine.jpg

Susquehanna County recently bought these voting machines that voters will use in November. (Submitted photo)

(Harrisburg) -- A group examining election security in Pennsylvania urged Congress and state lawmakers Tuesday to speed up the funding required to replace voting machines, noting most lack a paper record needed to check for fraud and errors.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania's Election Security released interim recommendations and said the estimated $125 million to replace all machines statewide was "a relative bargain."

"Pennsylvania's elections are at risk," the interim report said. "And one of the biggest risks is one that we can control -- properly funding our election security, including by procuring voting machines that use voter-marked paper ballots."

The administration of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said earlier this year that counties buying new electronic voting systems must insure they leave a paper trail. The Pennsylvania Department of State is strongly considering banning the use of machines without a paper trail by the 2020 spring primary.

The Department of State said the report reinforces recent efforts the agency has taken to improve cyber security and get counties to upgrade machines. Pennsylvania's voting machines are not connected to the internet.

"These voting machines are approaching the end of their useful lives, and we must move forward responsibly based on the nearly unanimous recommendations of security experts to replace them with voting systems that meet current security and accessibility standards, produce a paper record that voters can verify, and enable robust postelection audits," the agency said.

About four in five voters in the state use machines that lack an auditable paper trial. New, state-of-the-art machines with a paper trail typically cost several thousand dollars apiece.

The new report said that along with machines, other election security challenges include election management, voter registration and the response to any cyberattack.

David Hickton, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who is co-chair of the commission, said its members felt strongly that "you need to start beginning now to acknowledge that we have vulnerable voting machines here in Pennsylvania."

He said another aspect of election security that deserves scrutiny is the widespread use of outside consultant vendors to help counties run their elections.

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