County Commissioners Hope State Picks Up Bill For New Voting Machines

Dec 20, 2018

One of the voting machines on display at a demonstration in Blair County. The Pennsylvania Department of State is working with counties to get new voting systems, which include voter-verifiable paper trails, in time for the 2020 elections.
Credit Anne Danahy / WPSU

As Pennsylvania pushes ahead with plans for new voting machines that produce a paper trail, some counties are concerned about the costs.

The board of the SEDA-Council of Governments, a development agency that serves 11 counties in central Pennsylvania, recently came out against the state’s mandate that all counties get new paper-trail voting machines by 2020.

"The counties just felt that to have this mandated in the timeframe the governor was asking was unrealistic,” said Jeff Snyder, a Clinton County commissioner and the incoming SEDA-COG board president.

Since the board of SEDA-COG approved the resolution, Pennsylvania settled a lawsuit, stating its commitment to moving to voter-verifiable paper trails that can be audited.

Most voters in Pennsylvania cast their ballots without a paper trail. That lack of paper ballot or recountable paper trail is seen as a security weakness.

If the transition is going to happen, Snyder and others are hoping the state will pick up most of the bill.

So far, about $14 million dollars from the federal government and a state match is available. But, statewide, the upgrade will cost an estimated $125 million.

Centre County voted against the SEDA-COG resolution. Commissioner Mark Higgins said the voters and poll workers he’s spoken with want systems that have a paper trail.

But, he understands where the other commissioners are coming from.

“Unfunded mandates as a commissioner — it’s not fun," Higgins said. "It’s somebody else saying, ‘Hey, here’s a good thing. You guys pay for it.’”

Governor Wolf has said in his upcoming budget plan he will ask state lawmakers to cover at least half the costs.

SEDA-COG serves Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Juniata, Lycoming, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Snyder and Union counties.