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York County signs $1.4 million deal for new voting machines

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
FILE - This Oct. 19, 2017, file photo shows a new voting machine which prints a paper record on display at a polling site in Conyers, Ga. Time and money are running short for states to replace aging or inadequate voting machines before the 2020 presidential primaries, according to a report released Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

The York County Commissioners unanimously approved a $1.4 million conditional contract Wednesday for new voting machines, voter booths, licenses and related services, and the county won’t have to take out a loan to pay for it.

Dominion Voting Systems, which manufactured the county’s current machines, will supply 360 new devices that produce a voter-verifiable paper trail. The contract includes an annual software and hardware licensing fee of $147,450 effective July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2028.

“The long and short of it is, for a million-and-four, you get to go back to voting methods that were used in 1953,” quipped Commissioner Chris Reilly.

Voters will now fill out a paper ballot and then feed the ballot into a scanner that will tally the votes.

Half the machines will be regular ballot scanners, and the other half will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The plan is to have both machines at each of the county’s polling places, Reilly said.

More:York County unlikely to wait for state voting machine cash

More:Pennsylvania must replace voting machines, lawmakers told

The contract is conditional until the county’s solicitor finalizes certain terms dealing with software and information technology support from Dominion.

Gov. Tom Wolf made the push for new voting machines after federal authorities said Russian hackers meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Per the governor's order, new machines must leave a paper trail and must be in place by Dec. 31, in time for the 2020 presidential race.

There’s enough money in York County’s general fund to cover the cost of the machines without taking out a bond issue or loan, said Mark Derr, York County administrator.

“In years past, the cost was significantly higher, and the county actually borrowed money to purchase the machines,” Derr said, adding that the current machines are about 16 years old.

About $504,000 is expected to be reimbursed from the federal government, and the state could provide an additional $535,000 based on the governor’s funding proposal, Derr said.

Wolf pledged $75 million in funding to help offset the estimated $125 million statewide cost, but the actual funding total won't be determined until the state General Assembly approves the budget this summer.

One county resident spoke at the meeting to support the commissioners’ decision.

“In West York, we experienced some software errors a few years ago for a borough council race,” said Alan Vandersloot, a West York borough council member.

Vandersloot was referring to a programming error in York County’s voting machines that allowed voters in the November 2017 municipal election to cast several votes for the same candidate.

The error reportedly impacted eight races, including West York.

“I believe the type of machines that I understand these are will make it pretty easy for a voter to fill in their choices and also allow for a paper record of the vote,” Vandersloot said. “I think that’s important because, again, democracy depends on having elections that are properly counted, and no questions.”

The new voting machines will be in service for the upcoming general election on Nov. 5.