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Plenty of work left to do in Pa. on election security

  • Emily Previti/PA Post
Westmoreland County Elections Director Beth Lechman straightens a stack of ballots during a risk limiting audit simulation at the Mercer County Courthouse Monday.

 Emily Previti / PA Post

Westmoreland County Elections Director Beth Lechman straightens a stack of ballots during a risk limiting audit simulation at the Mercer County Courthouse Monday.

Election officials can forget about a holiday season lull of any kind. A dozen Pa. counties need to finish negotiating their voting machine contracts before year’s end, while many others have to figure out how to avoid problems at the polls during the April primary — the last election before the high-turnout general election next November. And all counties must implement historic voting reforms. Stay tuned. –Emily Previti, PA Post Reporter

Some Pa. counties still haven’t settled on new machines

Emily Previti / PA Post

Westmoreland County Elections Director Beth Lechman straightens a stack of ballots during a risk limiting audit simulation at the Mercer County Courthouse on Nov. 18, 2019. (Emily Previti / PA Post)

  • About a dozen counties must still select new voting machines. Bucks County officials are expected to vote Dec. 4, reports the Courtier Times. Luzerne County officials told me they’ll debate recommendations tomorrow. The Election Board there is backing ES&S, while County Manager David Pedri is recommending a Dominion system. In an interview with The Times Leader, Pedri emphasized he’s pushing ballot-marking devices that retain the paper ballot, and not a scanner-based system like the one that proved problematic in York County earlier this month.

  • One of York County’s state senators attempted to address those problems in a bill passed last week by the legislature. The new rules respond to voters’ privacy concerns and complaints about delays due to jammed scanners. I detailed the legislation in this story.

  • At least one Lehigh County precinct failed visually-impaired voters on Election Day because poll workers didn’t plug in the machine set up to accommodate them, according to Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick. Muschick fully details the problem in his latest column.

  • Meanwhile, in Northampton County, public officials might finally have access this week to voting machines that incorrectly tabulated results during the election on Nov. 5. They need to examine the devices to figure out what went wrong, but haven’t been able to because of an impoundment order requested by judicial candidate Victor Scomillio. The Republican — or any other candidate contesting an outcome — has until today to file a formal challenge, The Morning Call reports. If that happens, it could further delay the investigation into the tabulation errors, Northampton’s Deputy Director of Administration Becky Bartlett told me last week. I spoke to Becky a few hours before a County Council meeting where residents complained about the machines, which WFMZ covered.

  • Pennsylvania started doing simulations of post-election risk-limiting audit last week to get feedback before they have to be implemented statewide in 2022, as required by the same legal settlement that is driving the replacement of voting machines across the state. I covered the first audit in Mercer County (text and audio stories here). Read about how the second one went in Philadelphia, courtesy of The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Lai.

Best of the rest

Ed Mahon / PA Post

Matthew Wintersteen, left, and Perri Rosen, right, experts on suicide prevention, listen during a gun violence hearing in York on Nov. 22, 2019. (Ed Mahon / PA Post)

  • Pa.’s Special Council on Gun Violence is touring the state for a series of public hearings meant to inform the strategies and policy recommendations the panel’s tasked with developing. Ed Mahon covered a meeting on Friday and will be at one today in State College. He detailed the initiative and put it in context in this PA Post story.

  • The state Senate unanimously passed a bill last week that would make it easier for ex-offenders to pursue the 250-plus jobs that require a state license in Pennsylvania. Licensing boards would have to consider applications individually and give applicants more chances to make their case. An-Li Herring reported on the legislation in this story for WESA.

  • The mini-casino slated for Beaver County isn’t happening. Mt. Airy Casino Resort — which operates an eponymous gambling destination in the Pocono Mountains — couldn’t securing financing for the project, The Associated Press reports, prompting state regulators to deny their bid last week. The Beaver County Times’s Daveen Rae Kurutz details the reasons the project fell apart. Four other mini casinos are under development statewide: two are under construction in Bucks County, while York and Cumberland-based mini-casinos await licenses, according to this post from Penn Bets.


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