New voting machines are not necessary
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s directive that the state’s 67 counties all buy new voting machines is an unnecessary — and unfunded — mandate.
We find no evidence of a need for new voting machines
Statements from our state elected leaders, backed by our federal agencies, would have any Clinton County resident fearful of hacking in our local elections.
After all, Pennsylvania was one of 13 states identified as a target of Russian hacking during the 2016 Presidential election.
But that effort was unsuccessful.
Clinton County voting machines — computers, essentially — are 10 years old. They have been used 20 times.
To date, Clinton County and Pennsylvania have not had a voting breach. No recount. No allegation of voter fraud.
The Russian attempt in 2016 has never been tied in any of the 13 states identified to changing or altering in any way the Keystone state’s procedures or results.
We are not Florida, Georgia, North Dakota, or any state that has in recent history suffered significant complaints of voter fraud or voter suppression allegations. Congress’ April authorization of nationwide election security carried with it a $356 million budget.
With a matching 5 percent state contribution, that means Pennsylvania is in line for $14.1 million.
Trickle down to Clinton County – staring at state-ordered Dec. 31, 2019 deadline for a vendor contract – and that budget is $41,000.
So who signs the check? For 85 machines: the pricetag is estimated at nearly $500,000.
Our county commissioners voice opposition. We vote them into office to represent us and manage county coffers.
We entrust them with election integrity and polling place management.
Some recent suggestions the commissioners offered to help pay for these new machines: reducing voting locations.
The law provides each municipality with a voting place. Locally, the exceptions are the City of Lock Haven — with five wards, voters have five voting places — and Pine Creek Township – which has two locations.
Or a one-time tax on voters.
If the goal of Election Day is to encourage voting, wouldn’t cutting locations to do so or taxing voters discourage voting?
It doesn’t take much to dissuade the electorate from voting — weather, the ballot, waiting in line, faraway or inconvenient polling locations, voter ID laws.
Adding a tax and tossing in confusing language over a “paper trail” which to some suggests a “paper copy” rather than a digital image [which is what will be created in the voting machine] can and will keep voters away.
The board of directors of SEDA-COG — a public development organization that serves 11 counties in Central Pennsylvania — also has stated opposition to this unfunded mandate.
The board cited the lack of evidence in hacking, the lack of certified vendors, and the ongoing work of state committees appointed to study and recommend appropriate security measures for elections reform in the Commonwealth.
The board’s resolution also called for full funding to accompany the gubernatorial order.
Until funding is earmarked and a state-run vendor selection regime is in place so that every county isn’t applying its own criteria for selecting a vendor, we suggest slowing down the fear inherent in this rhetoric and not overspending on a sloppy mandate that, at best, appears premature.
That’s the conclusion of our local officials and experts.