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2018 News

Bucks County to Host Public Demonstration of New Voting Systems

December 7, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:  Bucks County: Larry R. King, 215-348-6413, lrking@buckscounty.org
                 Department of State: Wanda Murren, 717-783-1621, wmurren@pa.gov

The Pennsylvania Department of State will conduct an expo of new voting systems next week in the third-floor rotunda of the Bucks County Administration Building, 55 E. Court Street in Doylestown.Expo photo

The expo, which will run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, December 13, will feature five vendors who will demonstrate their wares and answer questions from government officials and members of the public.

The event is part of a series of expos being held around Pennsylvania by the Department of State. The demonstrations are part of a push by the Wolf Administration to replace existing voting machines with new systems that can be verified through paper records.

The expo in Doylestown “is an opportunity for people in southeast Pennsylvania, including county commissioners and election officials, to try the new voting technology with paper records that can be checked and verified by the voter, and to ask questions of the vendors,” said Jonathan Marks, commissioner of the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation. “We want to ensure the public understands the benefits and improvements these systems offer.”

In April, Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres informed counties that they must select new voting systems that provide a paper record by the end of 2019. The directive strongly recommended that counties have new systems in place by the November 2019 general election, and no later than the 2020 primary.

Bucks County last replaced its voting machines in 2006, assisted by funding from the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002.

The cost of the initiative to replace them statewide, estimated at roughly $125 million, has raised concerns among county commissioners and some state legislators. An overriding factor may be the recent settlement of a federal vote-counting lawsuit, the terms of which compel Pennsylvania to make the proposed changes according to the already established timeline.

In an email sent to county commissioners on Nov. 29, Gov. Wolf indicated that he will ask the General Assembly to fund at least half of the cost. Any state contribution would be in addition to the $13.5 million already provided by Congress in the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2018.

The federal funding, which requires a 5 percent state match, is being distributed under provisions of the Help America Vote Act. The Pennsylvania Department of State is pursuing additional state and federal funding from sources that include grants, appropriations, low-interest financing, leases, cost-sharing and other means.

The Doylestown expo is one of five the Department of State has planned across the state. The first took place Nov. 29 in State College; others are planned in Moosic, Carlisle and Erie. The events are a continuation of the state’s public education campaign to inform voters and local officials about the new voting systems and to allow them to test the systems’ features.

Vendors participating in the expo are Unisyn Voting Solutions, Dominion Voting Systems, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), Hart InterCivic and Clear Ballot Group.

At a recent public budget hearing, Bucks County Commissioners Chair Robert G. Loughery said the county currently has no timetable for purchasing new machines, but is committed to turning full attention to the issue once the county’s 2019 operating budget is finalized.

“We’re continuing to do our due diligence,” Loughery told members of the public. “Until we have all the facts and we know which system we’re purchasing (and) how much money we’re getting in, I don’t think we can really give you a good idea of the timeline the county will be on.”

Ultimately, counties will have their choice of any of the voting systems that achieve certification from both the federal Election Assistance Commission and the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Two of the systems to be displayed at the expo already have received both federal and state certification. One other system has successfully completed testing and is in the process of certification reports and paperwork. The Department of State expects another one or two systems to complete the certification process by the end of the year.

Anyone attending the Doylestown expo should enter the Administration Building through its Court Street entrance. In addition to street parking, attendees may park for free in Bucks County’s parking facility at Broad and Union Streets. Limited free parking also will be available at the county employees’ lot at Broad and Court Streets.