Wolf secures voting machine funding; Westmoreland won’t use new system until 2020
Westmoreland County officials said Tuesday’s announcement from Gov. Tom Wolf about securing state funding for the purchase of new voting systems throughout Pennsylvania will not impact a revised timeline here.
“The only thing that may change is they (county commissioners) may pick a machine to purchase this year but it still won’t be implemented until April. That’s the best I can do,” Westmoreland County Elections Bureau Director Beth Lechman said.
The governor Tuesday said he ordered a $90 million bond issue for counties to purchase voting machines with verifiable paper trials. Wolf last year ordered all voting systems that cannot generate a paper receipt of votes cast be replaced in time for the 2020 Presidential elections.
The bond issue is designed to reimburse each county for 60% of the cost, Wolf said in a statement. He gave no timeline for the payback.
“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 began pressing counties last year to replace their voting machines before 2020, after federal authorities warned Pennsylvania and at least 20 other states that Russian hackers targeted them during 2016’s presidential election.
The money raised by the bond will be used for voting machines that have enhanced anti-hacking security, a paper record and auditable results, Wolf’s administration said.
Westmoreland County’s 880 touchscreen computers in use since 2005 do not produce a paper record. Officials for the last year have explored new voting systems and are reviewing proposals that meet the state’s mandate.
Commissioners earlier this year set aside $8.2 million to purchase new machines from a $44 million loan taken out for capital improvement projects. Initial plans called for the new voting system to be in use for this November’s general election but officials announced this week that would be delayed until next spring.
“It’s certainly welcome news,” said Commissioner Ted Kopas about the governor’s funding announcement. “But given how we are in July we’re just out of time for November. Our goal will be spring of next year.”
Commissioner Charles Anderson said he wasn’t briefed on the governor’s announcement and wasn’t sure how it would impact the county’s plans.
“I’d like to get something done but it may be impossible to do,” Anderson said.
Commissioner Gina Cerilli did not respond to requests for comment.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .