Gov. Wolf leads PA election machine initiative

County officials continue to aim for a fall General Election roll-out for new election machines.

But the issue is getting kicked and punted all around Harrisburg.

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that Gov. Tom Wolf said he is “ordering a bond issue to help Pennsylvania’s counties pay for new voting machines ahead of 2020s presidential election….”

The AP reported that the bond issue would be “up to $90 million” and “designed to reimburse each county for 60 percent of their cost” without giving a timeline on when counties would see the money.

“Pennsylvania counties are well on their way to replacing their voting systems and I applaud their tremendous commitment to protecting our elections,” Wolf said. “I remain committed to supporting their efforts and this funding will help the counties to complete that process.”

Wolf has been driving this initiative and the focus has been implementation of machines with a paper-trail as opposed to the current machines used in the county that leave the voter without any verification that their vote was actually cast.

County Elections Director Lisa Rivett brought three of the firms who produce election machines with a paper trail to an open house at the Warren Public Library earlier this year.

While the county is still finalizing the process of procuring new machines, the General Assembly in late June, per AP reports, “backed 11th-hour legislation that carried up to $90 million in borrowing authority to pay for new voting machines.”

Wolf subsequently vetoed that legislation, claiming in a statement that it “makes changes to our elections that I do not believe strike the right balance to improve access to voters or security” and arguing that it “weakens the ability of the commonwealth and counties to quickly respond to security needs of voting systems in the future, creating unnecessary bureaucracy and potentially harmful delays.”

In addition to the funding piece, the legislation would have also removed the straight-party voting option.

Wolf said the “isolated removal of a convenient voting option would increase waiting times and could discourage participation.”

State Senator and President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati in a joint statement with Senator Jake Corman disagreed.

They attacked Wolf for rejecting “a $90 million, fiscally responsible lifeline to counties in order to pay for the Governor’s cry for new election machines.”

“He now fully owns this unfunded mandate on counties which will result in higher property taxes across the Commonwealth.”

The Senators also commented on the straight-party voting issue.

Scarnati and Corman acknowledged that “several rural Republicans” believed that “eliminating straight-party voting may have an adverse effect on their legislative races. Nevertheless, we pursued this measure because we believe all races should be decided by individual choices, rather than group voting.

“Governor Wolf’s veto makes no sense for voters, local governments or taxpayers,” they continued. “The repercussions of his arbitrary and partisan decision will be felt on Election Days to come and in the taxpayers wallets.”

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