Governor Tom Wolf has ordered all Pennsylvania counties to purchase new voting machines in time for the 2020 Presidential election, and his Department of State has been selecting the machines that they’ll certify for counties to purchase. Many counties, including Philadelphia, have been dragging their feet, and some have even enlisted their state lawmakers to try and counter Wolf so counties can wriggle out of the deadline. And then there’s Montgomery County.
Montgomery County is just going ahead and doing what they’re supposed to, buying new voting machines and rolling them out in time for the 2019 elections as a test-run for 2020, as WHHY reported last week:
Officials hope about 400 voting machines will be in place for the May 21 primary election.
Kenneth Lawrence, vice chairman of the County Board of Commissioners says the county is staying with Dominion Voting Systems to provide the machines at a cost of nearly $6 million.
“This new system will be a modern system, with voter-marked paper balloting with a verifiable paper trail so we can audit to make sure that ballots are counted correctly,” Lawrence said.
All electronic voting machines, as are common in many parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have drawn criticism since they don’t have a paper record that could be audited in the case of a malfunction or dispute.
The machines they’ll be getting in MontCo will also allow absentee ballots to be fed right into the machine, rather than requiring a hand count, so the complete election results will be available much sooner than they are today.
Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Commissioner Lisa Deeley isn’t even pretending she’ll try to meet the 2020 deadline and is instead aiming for 2021.
The PA Department of State has said they’ll refuse to certify the 2020 election results from any county that hasn’t updated their machines, so the Commissioners’ approach is recklessly putting Philadelphia on track for a crisis in a key election year.
Philadelphia City Commissioner Lisa Deeley said the city will find machines by the deadline, but they will not be put in service.
“I think that we are on track in the city of Philadelphia to have new equipment selected by the close of 2019,” she said.
That means the older machines that do not have a backup for every ballot will be still be in use in November of 2020, Deeley said.
“We would roll them out in ’21, not in the presidential,” she said. “We would train and maybe do a soft opening, like a trial in certain areas, then roll them out citywide in ’21.”
What Deeley is proposing is really not a choice that the Commissioners have, since the PA Department of State has said they’ll refuse to certify the 2020 election results from any county that hasn’t updated their machines, so the Commissioners’ approach is recklessly putting Philadelphia on track for a crisis in a key election year. Montgomery County’s good-actor example shows there’s still time to act and avoid an unnecessary showdown with the Department of State in a critical election year in Pennsylvania.
Jon Geeting is the director of engagement at Philadelphia 3.0, a political action committee that supports efforts to reform and modernize City Hall. This is part of a series of articles running in both The Citizen and 3.0’s blog.Photo via Flickr