Centre to lobby for new county voting systems

BELLEFONTE – Ensuring that voting systems throughout the county are up to date is a priority of the Centre County commissioners.

During their Tuesday meeting, the commissioners discussed renewing the county’s call for federal funding to assist with voting system technology.

Commissioner Mike Pipe said the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) is looking to write a letter to federal legislators, while asking each county to do so as well, to request that another round of funding be considered.

About a dozen years ago, counties received federal funding to buy new voting machines, thanks to the Helping America Vote Act.

“It’s an issue that’s very important, as we have been learning over the last few years,” Pipe said. “Centre County’s election equipment is very much ready for the primary this year and next year into 2019, and it will probably last for the 2020 election, but beyond that, that board of commissioners will certainly have to look at a replacement system in the near future.”

Funding for voting systems is one of the top seven policies that CCAP adopted for 2018, Pipe explained, and in addition to renewing the call for funding to federal legislators, CCAP will also be asking state legislators and the governor for some funding.

It is also too early to determine how much the funding would be, Pipe said, but he expects the cost to be at minimum several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When the newest voting equipment was purchased in 2008, it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.

The other commissioners added their thoughts on the matter.

“I don’t know that we have an urgency here in Centre County,” said Commissioner Steve Dershem. “I think our system is very strong, very sound, very simple, and I don’t think we’re in the same situation some of the other counties that maybe have obsolete systems. Our system is still an active and updatable system.”

He added that he does not believe the county will need new equipment for a number of years, and whether the county would receive the funding or not, it will be in good shape.

Commissioner Higgins said that while he hopes the systems remain in good shape, technology does age.

“At some point, the vendors will say, ‘Hey, this stuff is 10 years old, 15 years old, we’re giving you a year or two notice to tell you that you need to upgrade this stuff,” he said. “Also, I want to be supportive of the other counties out there which do have older systems and aren’t perhaps quite in the financial situation of Centre County.”

Later in the month or in early April, the commissioners will be holding an elections board meeting, where they will consider sending a letter to federal legislators.


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