People voting

Pennsylvania plots strategy for election security funds

Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres has set an aggressive timeline for the improving the security of the state's voting machines and processes.  By the end of December 2019, all Pennsylvania counties must have voter-verifiable, paper-record voting systems in place.

Pennsylvania's ability to invest in elections infrastructure comes from its $13.5 million share  of $380 million in funds included in the omnibus spending law passed in March to help states secure elections infrastructure. The funding is an extension of the 2002 Help America Vote Act. To take advantage of the funds, each state is also required to contribute a 5 percent match to the HAVA funds, which brings the total amount to be distributed to Pennsylvania counties to $14.2 million. 

“We want to bring about the system upgrades so Pennsylvania voters are voting on the most secure and auditable equipment as promptly and feasibly as possible, while also being supportive of the counties’ need to plan and budget for the new systems,” Torres said. “We have been planning for some time to bring Pennsylvania’s voting machines up to 21st-century standards of security, auditability and resiliency.”

The state wants to get the paper-recording voting systems in place before the November 2019 general election.The Department of State will hold a vendor demonstration on April 26 to give legislators, county and state officials and the public a chance to explore features on new voting machines. Counties will be able to choose from among voting systems that have been examined or certified after Jan. 1, 2018, by the Elections Assistance Commission and Torres.

On April 2, an invitation for bid was placed on the Pennsylvania e-Marketplace updating a state-negotiated agreement with vendors to make it easier for counties to purchase certified voting systems.

Besides updating the voting equipment ahead of the 2019 elections, the State Department is also using comprehensive monitoring to fortify physical and cybersecurity, and increasing training and resources for counties and partners.

While the funds will help states improve their election security to some degree, some local officials are already concerned that the money will not be enough to solve decade-long problems.  Jeff Greenburg, director of elections in Mercer County, Pa., called the new HAVA funds “a drop in the bucket of what is really needed.”

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@gcn.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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