Pennsylvania Will Use Bonding Authority to Fund County Voting Security Upgrades
July 09, 2019
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf announced today the commonwealth will begin work to issue a bond that will assist counties with purchasing new voting systems with a paper trail. The new systems have enhanced security to help guard against hacking and produce an anonymous paper record so voters can verify their choices are correctly marked before casting their ballot. Paper records also allow officials to conduct the most accurate recounts and audits of election results.
“Pennsylvania counties are well on their way to replacing their voting systems and I applaud their tremendous commitment to protecting our elections,” said Governor Wolf. “I remain committed to supporting their efforts and this funding will help the counties to complete that process.”
Under the arrangement, the commonwealth would fund up to $90 million to reimburse counties for 60 percent of their actual costs to replace voting systems. The Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority (PEDFA) may issue bonds, and the Department of State would make grants available to counties.
The Department of State will offer counties that use older models of hand-marked paper ballot voting systems an opportunity to request an extension until June 2021 to select new voting infrastructure. However, there will be a financial incentive for implementing on the current schedule: counties that implement new voting systems by the 2020 primary as directed by the Department will receive their full share of all available federal and state funds.
The Department of State has already begun disbursing $14.15 million, mostly federal funds, to counties for new voting systems.
“Our counties appreciate the governor finding a way forward that recognizes both the county need for funding assistance as well as the broad funding support we had in the General Assembly,” said Kathi Cozzone, president of the County Commissioner Association of Pennsylvania. “There are few higher priorities for counties than the safe, accessible and secure administration of elections, and we are truly grateful for the support and assistance we will be receiving as we move to the next generation of voting systems.”
“The provision of funding from the commonwealth, coupled with funds already received from the federal government, will significantly reduce the need for use of local property tax dollars,” added Douglas E. Hill, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. “The collaboration and care of all involved, who take the privilege of voting to heart, is most appreciated.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, along with the U.S. Senate and House intelligence committees and many security experts, have urged states to replace Direct Recording Electronic voting machines (DREs) used in most Pennsylvania counties.
Counties must choose a new voting system by Dec. 31, 2019 and implement them no later than the 2020 primary election. About 80 percent of counties have made progress in selecting a voting system, including nine counties that have already deployed new systems. Seven voting systems are certified in Pennsylvania following a rigorous evaluation by the Department of State and federal government.
Election security is a top priority for the Department of State which works closely with all 67 county boards of elections, as well as state and federal experts, to ensure the integrity of Pennsylvania’s election process.
Other actions already taken by the commonwealth to secure the vote include:
• Providing free crisis preparedness and cybersecurity training to counties;
• Coordinating the election security activities of multiple state agencies;
• Moving Department of State election day operations to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency;
• Encrypting voter registration data hosted by the Department of State;
• Layering cybersecurity to secure the state voter registration database;
• Continuous monitoring of the commonwealth’s technical environment;
• Conducting frequent independent vulnerability assessments of commonwealth networks, applications and systems, and
• Providing free anti-phishing and security awareness training software provided to counties.
The Department of State also provides counties with security training, including in-depth tabletop and mock election exercises and many other resources.