Counties React to DOS Acting Secretary Torres’ Voting
Douglas E. Hill, Executive Director, County Commissioners Association of
Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) today reacted cautiously to the
commonwealth’s decision to require counties to enter contracts for new voting
equipment by December 31, 2019 and ensure use of the equipment by the
April 2020 primary elections.
came in an April 12 memorandum from Department of State Acting Secretary Robert
the interim, the Department is retaining certification of counties’ current
election equipment, effectively affirming that current equipment remains
secure. Instead the express intent is to bring equipment up to the latest
standards for security and audit.
years, counties have been working toward upgrade and replacement of current
election systems, most of which were deployed in 2006 under the Help America
Vote Act. Counties
recognized that while the current systems are safe, secure and accurate,
changes in technology and operating systems require upgrade and replacement on
a cyclical basis and offer opportunities to improve voter convenience and
access. In addition, the
Department had set a requirement earlier in the year that any equipment purchased
after April 4 must include a paper audit capacity.
greatest impediment to system upgrades, though, is the lack of a funding source
to meet the estimated $125 million price tag. Counties had previously established support
for state and federal funding to replace voting equipment as one of their top
priorities for 2018.
memo, Sec. Torres gives the commonwealth’s commitment that it will work with
the General Assembly and counties to identify funding, and indicated that a
full range of options are under consideration. In the interim, he indicated
that the state’s receipts under the HAVA provisions of the new federal omnibus
budget bill, just over $14 million, will be available for the procurement
effort. Counties appreciate the Secretary’s comment that, “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
counties, the ability to achieve funding is critical. With more than a decade
of stagnant appropriations across the spectrum of programs counties provide on
the commonwealth’s behalf, few counties have resources on hand to meet the expected
cost. The progress toward funding over the next year and a half will determine
county capacity to meet the state requirement without placing the burden on the
property tax payer.
At the same
time, counties support the work the Department has already undertaken to
facilitate equipment upgrades, including advancing the equipment certification
schedule and working with the Department of General Services on making
contracts available through the state’s COSTARS cooperative purchasing program.
The Department has indicated interest in other reforms that could improve
system efficiency and reduce elections administration costs.
interim, counties are careful to remind the public that the current equipment
is secure, accurate, and reliable. Counties maintain a secure chain of custody
for the equipment, and none of the equipment interfaces with the internet. For
each election, each voting machine is subject to calibration and to accuracy
and logic testing, and sealed prior to deployment. The county also verifies
operation once in the polling place, and performs post-election review.
The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP)
is the voice of county government; a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan
association representing all 67 counties in Pennsylvania. CCAP members include
county commissioners, council members, county executives, administrators, chief
clerks and solicitors.
County governments are responsible for a wide variety of critical
issues, including provision of human services (i.e., mental health,
intellectual disabilities, juvenile justice, children and youth, long-term
care, drug and alcohol services, housing) to people in need in our communities.
In addition, counties are responsible for emergency management and 911 services,
administration of the courts and corrections system, elections, maintenance of
county bridges, and the county property assessment rolls, and are also involved
in environmental and land use planning, protection of open space and community
and economic development.
CCAP strengthens the counties’ abilities to govern their own
affairs and improve the well-being and quality of life for every Pennsylvania
resident. It advocates for favorable state and federal legislation, programs
and policies on behalf of counties. CCAP is committed to service excellence
through education, information, insurance, technology and other programs that
support effective county government. Founded in 1886, CCAP is an affiliate of
the National Association of Counties. For more information
about Pennsylvania counties and CCAP, log on to www.pacounties.org and visit CCAP’s Twitter page @PACountiesGR.