BAL­LOT BAT­TLE

GOP pushes back on cash gov­er­nor seeks for vot­ing ma­chines

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Marc Levy

HAR­RIS­BURG, PA. >> Repub­li­can law­mak­ers are re­fus­ing to com­mit to the mil­lions of dol­lars sought by Demo­cratic Gov. Tom Wolf to back up his de­mand that Penn­syl­va­nia’s coun­ties but­tress elec­tion se­cu­rity by re­plac­ing their vot­ing ma­chines be­fore 2020’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

Repub­li­cans who con­trol Penn­syl­va­nia’s Leg­is­la­ture say that a roughly $34 bil­lion bud­get coun­ter­pro­posal they are fi­nal­iz­ing does not in­clude the $15 mil­lion Wolf re­quested, and that they want Wolf to back off his stated in­ten­tion to de­cer­tify vot­ing ma­chines in use

"This was a cri­sis that the gov­er­nor cre­ated, and he needs to re­solve it. I feel bad for the coun­ties, be­cause he put a huge un­funded man­date on the coun­ties, but that’s his re­spon­si­bil­ity." — Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Jake Cor­man, R-Cen­tre

last year.

Repub­li­cans never agreed to re­quire coun­ties to re­place vot­ing ma­chines, and help­ing fi­nance the purchases is Wolf’s prob­lem, not theirs, said Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Jake Cor­man, R-Cen­tre.

“This was a cri­sis that the gov­er­nor cre­ated, and he needs to re­solve it,” Cor­man said in an in­ter­view. “I feel bad for the coun­ties, be­cause he put a huge un­funded man­date on the coun­ties, but that’s his re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Wolf last year be­gan press­ing coun­ties to buy ma­chines with a pa­per-based backup, fol­low­ing warnings by fed­eral au­thor­i­ties that Rus­sian hack­ers had tar­geted Penn­syl­va­nia and at least 20 other states dur­ing 2016’s elec­tion.

Wolf ’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has warned law­mak­ers that Penn­syl­va­nia could oth­er­wise be left as the only state — and cer­tainly the only pres­i­den­tial bat­tle­ground state — with­out voter-ver­i­fi­able pa­per sys­tems that al­low a voter to double-check how their vote was recorded.

Wolf’s of­fice said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day that the in­tegrity of Penn­syl­va­nia’s elec­tions “is every­one’s re­spon­si­bil­ity” and that it would con­tinue pushing for law­mak­ers to sup­port aid to coun­ties.

“If they elect not to sup­port pro­tect­ing Penn­syl­va­nia’s votes, Gov­er­nor Wolf will as­sess the best path for­ward for the com­mon­wealth,” Wolf’s of­fice said.

Penn­syl­va­nia is one of about a dozen states where some or all vot­ers, un­til re­cently, have used ma­chines that store votes elec­tron­i­cally with­out printed bal­lots or another pa­per­based backup.

The so-called di­rec­trecord­ing elec­tronic ma­chines in wide use in Penn­syl­va­nia make it al­most im­pos­si­ble to know whether they’ve ac­cu­rately recorded in­di­vid­ual votes or if anyone tam­pered with the count.

But Repub­li­can sen­a­tors have com­plained that Penn­syl­va­nia is rush­ing to buy ma­chines at con­sid­er­able tax­payer ex­pense when there are lo­gis­ti­cal hur­dles and no le­git­i­mate ex­am­ple of an elec­tion ir­reg­u­lar­ity in the state.

“This is sort of the gov­er­nor buy­ing into the whole na­tional nar­ra­tive that Trump stole the elec­tion,” Cor­man said. “There’s zero proof of that.”

Wolf’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, how­ever, con­tends that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion sup­ports its po­si­tion.

Since 2016, a wide range of elec­tion in­tegrity ad­vo­cates and com­puter sci­en­tists, as well as for­mer Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen, have urged states to switch to ma­chines that pro­duce an au­ditable pa­per trail.

The to­tal re­place­ment cost could ex­ceed $100 mil­lion in Penn­syl­va­nia. Wolf’s plan, is­sued in Fe­bru­ary, is for the state to pay $15 mil­lion to coun­ties each year for five years, for a to­tal of $75 mil­lion.

In­for­ma­tion pro­vided by Wolf’s ad­min­is­tra­tion Wed­nes­day showed 33 of 67 coun­ties, in­clud­ing Philadel­phia, have plans to start us­ing new vot­ing sys­tems on or be­fore the April 2020 pri­mary elec­tion. Sev­eral of the state’s most pop­u­lous coun­ties were not among them.

MATT ROURKE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

A tech­ni­cian works to pre­pare vot­ing ma­chines to be used in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, in Philadel­phia. Repub­li­can law­mak­ers aren’t com­mit­ting to the money sought by Demo­cratic Gov. Tom Wolf to back up his de­mand that Penn­syl­va­nia’s coun­ties re­place their vot­ing ma­chines by 2020’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. Repub­li­cans who con­trol Penn­syl­va­nia’s Leg­is­la­ture say a roughly $34 bil­lion bud­get coun­ter­pro­posal they are fi­nal­iz­ing this week doesn’t in­clude the $15 mil­lion Wolf re­quested.

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