Nope: PA Legislature Defies Governor’s Call to Upgrade Voting Equipment

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Pennsylvania’s Legislature is defying the Governor’s call to upgrade the state’s voting equipment – refusing to include the necessary funds in the budget and saying he should remove the threat of decertifying old machines in advance of the 2020 election. The Morning Call has more:

Republican lawmakers are refusing to commit to the millions of dollars sought by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to back up his demand that Pennsylvania’s counties buttress election security by replacing their voting machines before 2020′s presidential elections.

Republicans who control Pennsylvania’s Legislature say that a roughly $34 billion budget counterproposal they are finalizing does not include the $15 million Wolf requested, and that they want Wolf to back off his stated intention to decertify voting machines in use last year

Republican lawmakers are refusing to commit to the millions of dollars sought by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to back up his demand that Pennsylvania’s counties buttress election security by replacing their voting machines before 2020′s presidential elections.

Republicans who control Pennsylvania’s Legislature say that a roughly $34 billion budget counterproposal they are finalizing does not include the $15 million Wolf requested, and that they want Wolf to back off his stated intention to decertify voting machines in use last year.

For his part, the Governor is sticking to his guns and asking legislators to make the funding available – and if they do not, he will look for ways to do it himself:

Wolf’s office said in a statement Wednesday that the integrity of Pennsylvania’s elections “is everyone’s responsibility” and that it would continue pushing for lawmakers to support aid to counties.

“If they elect not to support protecting Pennsylvania’s votes, Governor Wolf will assess the best path forward for the commonwealth,” Wolf’s office said.

Pennsylvania is one of about a dozen states where some or all voters, until recently, have used machines that store votes electronically without printed ballots or another paper-based backup that allows a voter to double-check how their vote was recorded.

The so-called direct-recording electronic machines in wide use in Pennsylvania make it almost impossible to know whether they’ve accurately recorded individual votes or if anyone tampered with the count.

Some opponents suggest the move to upgrade voting equipment is a reaction to the outcome of the 2016 election instead of a move to improve security:

Republican senators have complained that Pennsylvania is rushing to buy machines at considerable taxpayer expense when there are logistical hurdles and no legitimate example of an election irregularity in the state.

“This is sort of the governor buying into the whole national narrative that Trump stole the election,” Corman said. “There’s zero proof of that.”

Wolf’s administration, however, contends that the Trump administration supports its position.

Wolf’s position is backed up by a wide range of election integrity advocates and computer scientists, as well as former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who have urged states to switch to machines that produce an auditable paper trail.

If and when the upgrade occurs, however, it won’t be cheap:

The total replacement cost could exceed $100 million. Wolf’s plan, issued in February, is for the state to pay $15 million to counties each year for five years, for a total of $75 million.

Information provided by Wolf’s administration Wednesday showed 33 of 67 counties, including Philadelphia, have plans to start using new voting systems on or before the April 2020 primary election. Several of the state’s most populous counties were not among them.

A particular sticking point for Republicans is Wolf’s administration forcing all 17 counties that already use machines with a paper-based backup to replace them.

Wolf’s administration has maintained that those machines are aging, lack continuing support for their software and hardware and will be more expensive in the future to replace.

Funding fights like these are always worth keeping an eye on because of the push and pull between parties and branches of government – but this one is especially noteworthy because of Pennsylvania’s size and the nature of the voting equipment at issue. I don’t see any current evidence that either side intends to budge, which will make the Governor’s hint of an “or else” a must-see. Stay tuned …

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