State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

PA's old voting machines are sticking around

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jan 7, 2016 2:02 PM
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Pennsylvania's top elections official says the commonwealth is heading into a big election year with outdated voting machines.

Most of the state's voting systems were purchased around 10 years ago. They weren't made to last a decade, creating the possibility of faulty vote tallies and long lines on Election Day.

"By some accounts, some of those systems... are at the point at the end of their useful life," Secretary of State Pedro Cortés told reporters last month. "Some of the vendors may no longer have replacement parts, and you're setting yourself for potential issues going forward."

Counties maintain voting systems, which are reviewed and tested by the federal and state government before being used in an election. Cortés said the state has also been keeping an eye on how counties store and repair machines.

"What we have found is that, for the most part, the systems are in good shape," said Cortés. "So the systems can be used safely and will be used safely (and) accurately for 2016."

Pennsylvania's situation is hardly unique.

In a September 2015 report by the New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice, election officials across the country sound the alarm that outdated voting machines run the risk of causing long wait times and screwing up election results.

The report's authors found that old equipment could lead to more Election Day problems that are already happening with growing frequency: "flipped votes, freezes, shut downs, long lines, and, in the worst case scenarios, lost votes and erroneous tallies."

Pennsylvania's latest mass upgrade to voting systems came before the 2006 election, when federal money came through to help states avoid the kind of problems that plagued the 2000 election due to obsolete voting machines.

But there's no indication the commonwealth will receive to purchase new voting systems to deploy statewide in the near future.

"Every indication," said Cortés, "is that Congress will not allocate money for the purchase of voting systems into the future."

Published in State House Sound Bites

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