State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

After commitment to update voting machines, Pa. has to decide how to pay

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Nov 30, 2018 7:17 PM

Currently, most voters in Pennsylvania use machines that don't create paper records--a system that is seen as increasingly outdated. (Photo by AP)


(Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania has committed, in federal court, to updating all its voting machines by 2020.

The state settled a lawsuit Thursday that Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein filed two years ago, arguing that voting machines that don't leave paper trails are susceptible to error because they can't be double-checked.

The state hasn't admitted any wrongdoing, or that there were any issues with the machines used in the 2016 election.

Governor Tom Wolf first urged counties to get voting machines with paper records earlier this year.

Following the Stein settlement, the Department of State issued a memo to counties saying new machines should be in place for 2020 elections, and state funds would cover about half the cost.

However, counties have said on no uncertain terms that they can't afford to update all the machines themselves, and there is still no concrete funding deal between the Wolf administration and the GOP-controlled legislature.

Doug Hill, who leads the state County Commissioners Association, said the uncertainty makes it difficult to financially plan for the new voting machines.

"At this point, we won't know for sure what's available to counties until the budget process is complete in June, which is difficult for us because counties do a calendar year budget," he said. "We're putting the final touches on our 2019 budgets right now."

However, he added, he thinks "the General Assembly has the same interest we do in assuring that the voters have equipment that's up to date and that meets all the current standards for security."

All told, replacing the state's voting machines is expected to cost around $110 million.

A Department of State spokeswoman said the commonwealth might be able to cover around $75 million of that, on top of a little more than $14 million in federal money earmarked for the purpose.

She said the Wolf administration has had some initial talks with GOP leaders, which have gone well.

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