New voting machines to be in place across Pennsylvania by 2020

Election

The next time Pennsylvanians vote in a presidential election, it will most likely be on updated machines.

New voting systems must be in place in every county by the end of 2019, per updated guidelines set by Governor Tom Wolf’s administration.

“All of the systems you see here have a voter-verifiable, paper ballot,” Jonathan Marks said at a vendor event Wednesday at Dickinson College, where several different brands of machines were set up for the public to try firsthand. “They’ve also been certified to newer security standards. The current equipment in use in Pennsylvania is certified to standards that were actually written in the 1990s.”

The new machines will produce a paper record when a voter casts their ballot, complimenting the digital tally. The ones you voted on last month probably didn’t.

That physical paper trail and extra layer of security made Carlisle resident Gail Hills feel more at ease. She said she’s recently been worried about the integrity of her vote.

“When I cast my ballot, the system that we use now, I’m not certain that what is on the cartridge is really the person I voted for,” said Hills. “When you hit the candidate that you choose, you’re not certain that you’ve picked the right one because sometimes it can be off a little bit.”

Improvements are good, but cost is always a concern, so the Department of State is exploring a cost-share set up with federal, state and local funding.

Marks said each machine on display Wednesday vary in price between about $2,000 to $6,000.

“The governor has committed to working with the General Assembly to fund at least 50 percent of the cost of upgrading this equipment,” said Marks, adding that the federal government has already pitched in 10 to 12 percent of the upgrade costs.

But not everyone is on board with the new machines: Senator John Gordner (R-Luzerne, Northumberland), thinks mandates on voting machines should start with lawmakers – not the governor.

Dauphin County director of elections Jerry Feaser told abc27 last week that his voting setup is already secure enough.

“There’s really no truth to the idea that our voting systems can be hacked because none of them are connected to the internet in any way,” said Feaser.

We took those cost concerns to Adams County manager Albert Penksa. He was at Wednesday’s event to see the machines and ask questions for himself.

He said meeting the new standards will cost his county an estimated $500,000, but he supports the governor’s move.

“I think it’s going to make a secure situation for the voter, they’re gonna be able to see the paper trail, they’re gonna be able to verify it and they’re gonna be able to be certain,” Penksa said.

Marks said costs of a different kind could be at stake if these new machines aren’t implemented.

“If people stopped showing up to vote because they’re not confident that their vote is going to be counted, I don’t think you can put a price tag on that.”

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