Penn­syl­va­nia starts process of mov­ing to pa­per trail for bal­lots.

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - FRONT PAGE - By Kath­leen Carey [email protected]­tu­ry­media. com

DOYLESTOWN >> Joseph Sick­ora stood be­fore the vot­ing ma­chine Dec. 13 at the Bucks County Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing and pon­dered the ques­tion be­fore him.

“Should we al­lo­cate the funds for that pub­lic works project that many think we are in dire need of but that oth­ers be­lieve is a waste of the tax­pay­ers’ dol­lars?” it read.

The Doylestown res­i­dent an­swered, “Yes.”

And, al­though it was just a demon­stra­tion, the ma­chine and oth­ers like it there that night were ex­am­ples of what’s to come no later than the 2020 pri­mary. In April, the Penn­syl­va­nia Act­ing Sec­re­tary of State Robert Tor­res told coun­ties they have to select vot­ing sys­tems that pro­vide a pa­per bal­lot trail by the end of 2019 for use no later than the 2020 pri­mary.

“The real goal is for all vot­ers to be vot­ing on ma­chines that meet cur­rent se­cu­rity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity stan­dards in­clud­ing the use of voter-cer­ti­fied bal­lots,” said Kathy Boock­var, Gov. Tom Wolf’s se­nior ad­viser on elec­tion mod­ern­iza­tion, adding that na­tional se­cu­rity ex­perts in the last two years have come to a sim­i­lar con­clu­sion. “Ev­ery­body agrees that we need to have a ver­i­fied pa­per trail.”

Among those back­ing the up­date to vot­ing ma­chines are the U.S. Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee and the U.S. De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity.

Through­out Penn­syl­va­nia, and in Delaware County, vot­ers use Di­rect Record­ing Elec­tronic vot­ing ma­chines. They will have un­til Dec. 31, 2019, to pick pa­per bal­lot vot­ing ma­chines. Penn­syl­va­nia is one of 13 states that still use the DREs, while the rest use pa­per-based vot­ing sys­tems.

Todd V. Uro­se­vich, re­gional sales man­ager of Elec­tion Sys­tems & Soft­ware, ex­plained that some of the con­cerns about vot­ing sys­tems date back to the in­fa­mous Bush/Gore elec­tion of 2000 that wound up in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“There’s a cer­tain amount of bag­gage, if you will, that they wanted to avoid,” he said, adding that that elec­tion brought na­tional at­ten­tion to the types of vot­ing ma­chines that were used. “The most com­mon ques­tion we got then was, ‘Wow, how come ev­ery­body doesn’t do it the same?’”

That was rooted in states’ rights, he ex­plained.

Now, Uro­se­vich said the most-asked ques­tion asked is, “How can your sys­tems be hacked?”

He said they can’t. “These sys­tems, even be­fore ‘16, and I’ll speak for our other ven­dors as well, they’re all stand­alone de­vices,” he ex­plained. “They are not con­nected to the In­ter­net ... and that’s by de­sign. Even be­fore ‘16, we were rec­og­niz­ing you don’t want to con­nect these de­vices.”

So far, Penn­syl­va­nia has re­ceived $13.5 mil­lion in fed­eral funds for the ma­chines. That, cou­pled with the state match, makes $14.5 mil­lion avail­able. The ma­chines them­selves range from $5,500 to $12,000, ac­cord­ing to man­u­fac­tur­ers. Some coun­ties, like Delaware, have hun­dreds of polling places.

Gov. Tom Wolf wants to fund half the costs of the ma­chines for the coun­ties and he an­tic­i­pates work­ing with the Gen­eral As­sem­bly to se­cure that fund­ing.

On Dec. 13, the Penn­syl­va­nia De­part­ment of State held a demon­stra­tion of some of the pa­per bal­lot ma­chines at the Bucks County Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing. It was one of five that will be held through­out the state so vot­ers and county of­fi­cials can get a first­hand look at the de­vices.

At the demon­stra­tion, five ven­dors pre­sented their equip­ment to the pub­lic. Of those, two – Unisyn/Elec­tionIQ LLC and Elec­tion Sys­tems & So­lu­tions – have re­ceived the re­quired cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the fed­eral Elec­tion As­sis­tance Com­mis­sion and the Penn­syl­va­nia Sec­re­tary of the Com­mon­wealth. Do­min­ion Vot­ing is an­tic­i­pated to re­ceive cer­ti­fi­ca­tion soon with Electec’s Clear Bal­lot and Hart In­ter­civic not far be­hind.

“There’s two types of ma­chines that you’re see­ing here,” said In­grid Gior­dano, re­gional sales man­ager of Clear Bal­lot. “Ev­ery­thing has a pa­per bal­lot of some sort. Some sys­tems, a ma­chine marks the pa­per. Our sys­tem, and oth­ers too, the voter marks the bal­lot.”

With the Clear Bal­lot sys­tem, vot­ers phys­i­cally fill in a cir­cle on a pa­per to in­di­cate their choice be­fore scan­ning it into a ma­chine.

“Our scan­ner is ac­tu­ally cap­tur­ing a higher res­o­lu­tion im­age so it’s a gray scale im­age,” Gior­dano ex­plained, so it can read a va­ri­ety of mark­ings from the cir­cle not be­ing fully filled to a check mark to a high­lighter be­ing used. “We im­age all of that and we can tab­u­late all of that. We don’t re­ally need a ma­chine to make a bet­ter qual­ity mark be­cause we’re ac­tu­ally cap­tur­ing that bet­ter im­age.”

If the im­age can’t be read, the scan­ner will stop, re­turn the bal­lot and no­tify the voter of the prob­lem.

“The voter has the op­por­tu­nity to rem­edy the sit­u­a­tion.”

Other ma­chines were sim­i­lar to Do­min­ion Vot­ing, where vot­ers make a choice on a tablet, which then prints out a bal­lot to be placed into a scan­ner.

“Do­min­ion is a trans­par­ent, se­cure and flex­i­ble op­tion and cost ef­fec­tive us­ing these off-the-shelf com­po­nents,” said John Hast­ings, re­gional sales man­ager, adding that parts are sim­i­lar to what is ac­ces­si­ble in of­fice equip­ment.

Ron Cle­venger, vice pres­i­dent of sales for Hart In­ter­civic, spoke of the mer­its of Hart’s sys­tems.

“These ma­chines are built on a mod­ern plat­form just the last few years,” he said. “They’re built to last for the next 20 years and be­cause they’re not mod­i­fied or bolted onto older plat­forms, they have all the most mod­ern se­cu­rity fea­tures in the in­dus­try.”

Some of those in­clude us­ing dig­i­tal sig­na­tures and en­cryp­tion, no net­work in­ter­face ports of any kind and port ob­fus­ca­tion.

“And, maybe, most im­por­tantly, we use white list­ing,” Cle­venger said.

“Peo­ple know what black list­ing is – that means don’t let me run all these bad pro­grams. White list­ing is the com­plete op­po­site, it says only run this pro­gram. So if any­body tried to get it, it would never run any­thing that’s not au­tho­rized by its own de­vice.”

Some are pleased to see the state mov­ing in this di­rec­tion. Jenifer Maslow of Cit­i­zens for Bet­ter Elec­tions has been ad­vo­cat­ing for two years to have Penn­syl­va­nia coun­ties move to a pa­per bal­lot sys­tem.

“I ques­tioned an elec­tion and that’s how I started to do re­search and learn about vot­ing ma­chines,” the Mont­gomery County res­i­dent said of that year’s gen­eral elec­tion. “I didn’t un­der­stand how it hap­pened.”

With pa­per bal­lots, she said, “That is the way a voter can ver­ify their vote and there’s al­ways a way to check the elec­tion with pa­per.”

Sheri Keshishian of Wynnewood, Pa., who also works with Cit­i­zens for Bet­ter Elec­tions, said pa­per bal­lot vot­ing ma­chines can also be faster.

“It’ll ... pre­vent a lot of the long lines,” she said. “Do­ing these sys­tems, peo­ple are mark­ing their bal­lots and then shov­ing them through.”

They spoke of power out­ages.

“Even if the elec­tric­ity goes out, ev­ery­body can still vote,” Maslow said.

She said coun­ties are mov­ing to­ward the sys­tems.

Of Mont­gomery County, Maslow said, “They’re go­ing for­ward with it. They put it in their bud­get this year and we are go­ing to see a new sys­tem spring 2019.”

Delaware County of­fi­cials are pre­par­ing for the pur­chase of these ma­chines for their precincts.

Ch­ester County, Maslow said, has been vot­ing with pa­per bal­lots for more than a decade, but are up­grad­ing any­way.

“I have spo­ken to peo­ple that work at the polls there and they’ve said it’s su­per easy, su­per fast and they like it,” she said.

Sick­ora, who be­longs to the Penn­syl­va­nia Coun­cil of the Blind, said there are chal­lenges with the DRE’s and the pa­per bal­lot ma­chines as he him­self had dif­fi­culty with en­ter­ing a write-in can­di­date on one of the ma­chines Dec. 13.

“I’ve come to re­spect how hard it is to come up with some­thing that meets the dif­fer­ent skill lev­els in any com­mu­nity and cer­tainly the blind com­mu­nity has its share of dif­fer­ent skill lev­els,” he said.

That said, Sick­ora said, “I’m not go­ing to meet any­body who doesn’t sin­cerely want this thing to work out.”

State of­fi­cials see a plethora of ben­e­fits stem­ming from us­ing pa­per bal­lot vot­ing sys­tems.

“Peo­ple feel more se­cure,

un­der­stand­ably, when they can see con­fir­ma­tion of who they voted for,” Boock­var said. “So, not only do they get to ver­ify by look­ing at it, but then also that’s the pa­per record for au­dits and re­counts. So, it’s not push­ing the but­tons and hop­ing that the ma­chine is spit­ting out the right in­for­ma­tion. It’s vis­ually con­firmable who you voted for and that makes a big dif­fer­ence to vot­ers.

“You com­bine the con­fi­dence in the elec­torate with the de­fense of home­land se­cu­rity, it’s the right thing to do for the vot­ers,” she said.

KATH­LEEN CAREY — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

State of­fi­cials are mulling new meth­ods of se­cur­ing bal­lots.

KATH­LEEN CAREY — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Ron Cle­venger, vice pres­i­dent of sales for Hart In­ter­civic, as­sists Joseph Sick­ora of Doylestown in us­ing an ac­ces­si­ble vot­ing de­vice for the blind.

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