Election experts sample new paper trail machines that state will use in 2020

Paul Kurtz
December 14, 2018 - 2:53 pm
Election experts discuss paper ballot-based voting machines in Bucks County.

Paul Kurtz/KYW Newsradio


DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania election officials are winding down a year in which they allowed the public to sample new voting systems.

Paul Kurtz/KYW Newsradio
Five vendors showed off voting machines of all shapes and sizes at an expo Thursday night in Doylestown — some more complicated than others, but all with tighter security and a paper trail. 

Kathy Boockvar, senior adviser to the governor on election modernization, said all the machines meet the most current standards for security and accessibility.  

With the current standards, voters will no longer have to make a leap of faith and trust their vote went to the right place.

"You feed a piece of paper into the system, you mark your choices, the paper prints out," she explained. "You can look at the paper, see 'yes, that is who I voted for,' and scan into the ballot box."

Some of the systems look like oversized iPhones or tablets, she noted. "They all have slight differences but they've all met the most current standards."

Cathy Paige, a Doylestown Borough committee person, took a straightforward approach as she scouted machines for the Republican Party.

"Things should be as simple as possible for people. I like a paper ballot you fill out by hand, you put it in and they count it," she said.

Pennsylvania is one of only 13 states still using paperless machines. 

The new machines have been a long time coming for voting rights advocates like Janis Hobbs Pellechio.

"I was with a group 12 years ago when we got the current machines we have, which are not paper-based, and we wanted paper-based back then," she said. "This is what cyber security experts around the country have proven that our election results are what the voters intended."

Susquehanna County has already bought and received its new system. Decision time is coming everywhere else.  

"We have to do it by 2020," said Diane Ellis-Marseglia, a Bucks County Democratic commissioner, "so I would imagine within the first six to eight months. We will really start in earnest once they're all certified and then we'll start looking at them. And then we'll make the final decision based on what we see and how much money we're going to receive."

Statewide, the new system is expected to cost about $125 million. Gov. Tom Wolf has asked the legislature to fund at least half the cost.