|Posted:||December 3, 2018 09:59 AM|
|From:||Senator John R. Gordner|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||Voting Machine Decertification and Replacement|
|In the near future, I will be introducing legislation that would address a looming issue with regard to voting machines across the state.
As you know, Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of State (Department) have indicated their intention to decertify all election machines statewide prior to the elections of 2020. Counties must then replace those machines with expensive new ones that provide “voter-verifiable paper records.” In light of recent concerns with foreign hacking of election systems, this seems very well-intentioned. However, there are significant issues that lurk beneath the surface.
First, it is questionable whether or not it is reasonable or necessary to decertify every single machine in the state due to the stated security risks. For instance, machines in several of my counties, including Columbia and Montour, are not tied to the internet. Therefore, they are not vulnerable to being hacked by foreign enemies. I’m sure that these machines aren’t the only ones in the state that operate in this fashion.
Second, per Department estimates, the cost for replacing all voting machines statewide is at least $110 million, with some figures reaching $150 million and beyond. To date, the Department has been only been able to procure a very small percentage of that amount from the federal government to help cover the costs. Under existing law, the remainder of those costs would be borne by county government, leading to a great deal of angst among County Commissioners in my district. To a person, the message is the same. They cannot afford to do what the Governor is requiring them to do. To combat those concerns, the Governor has recently disclosed that he intends for the General Assembly to cover at least half of the implementation costs, with an eye toward the possibility of an even higher percentage than that being borne by the state.
If the General Assembly is expected to finance the lion’s share of the Governor’s plan, then the General Assembly should have a role in the development of the policy and how it relates to the expenditure of the state funds that we are entrusted with. This is especially true in light of the IFO’s recent estimate of next year’s budget deficit being significant.
Finally, if the Governor’s plan is carried out as he intends, the very first election that would utilize these new machines is the Presidential election of 2020. There would be no time to begin usage of these machines in prior elections to allow counties to work out the bugs in the system and assure smooth operation in such a crucial national election.
With these three concerns in mind, my bill will delay the impending mass decertification of current voting machines until an appropriate plan between the Governor and the General Assembly and the method by which it will be paid for can be agreed to. Further, it will require ample notification and approval from the General Assembly before any future Governor can require the mass decertification and replacement of election equipment statewide.
Voting is at the core of our American values. Therefore, election integrity and security is of the utmost of importance. However, I do not feel that the method to accomplish this, as laid out by the Governor, is in the best interest of all Pennsylvanians.
I invite you in joining me in the effort to delay this unfunded and unnecessary mandate on our counties and to set forth a path to developing a plan to address the issues laid out by the Governor, moving forward. Please contact my office if you have any questions regarding this legislation.
Introduced as SB48