EDITORIAL: Shore up York County elections machines
Given all that’s at stake in the 2018 midterm elections, Gov. Tom Wolf was right to recently require that all future voting machines purchased in Pennsylvania provide paper records of individual ballots.
To be effective, however, the Democratic governor must convince the Republican-led statehouse to put its money where its electoral concerns are.
That’s because at some $3,000 a pop, it would cost an estimated $60 million to replace the state’s aging voting machines. But given the threats to the nation’s electoral system from outside, and the possibility of both mechanical and human failure from within, it’s an investment the state can ill afford not to make.
York County is just one of some 50 in Pennsylvania whose voting machines do not provide paper trails. That means there is no way to affirm vote totals when necessary.
This became an issue just last year when a programming error allowed some voters to repeatedly cast ballots for the same candidate in races with more than one vacancy, such as for township councils. Some 2,900 ballots were found to be improperly cast.
Elections officials maintained that the error did not change the outcome of York County races, but absent a way to match up paper records with final tallies, there was no way to be definitive.
And that’s just one problem.
Recall, Pennsylvania was among 21 states whose voting systems were targeted by Russian hackers in 2016. The state’s elections system was not compromised, but that’s no guarantee of future security.
Especially given the Trump administration’s evident refusal to devote time, money or resources to fighting back against Russian meddling.
Just this past Tuesday, National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command chief Adm. Michael Rogers told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he has received no instructions from the administration to counter Russia’s ongoing campaign to interfere in U.S. elections.
And yes, Rogers told senators, he is certain that Russian cyber operatives have continued to attack U.S. institutions, seemingly secure that there will be little price to pay.
Asked about Rogers’ remarks, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration is “going to continue looking at different ways to combat (Russian meddling).”
“Continuing to look” is hardly the robust response Russian meddling merits but that’s as far as President Donald Trump, who can barely acknowledge Russian meddling because he views it as delegitimizing his electoral victory, is willing to go.
So Pennsylvania is on its own.
That’s why Wolf must find a way to at least assist counties like York in paying for the necessary new voting machines — and sooner rather than later.
With the state’s congressional districts still being debated, the last thing Pennsylvania needs is for additional issues to either sow confusion or undermine confidence in this year’s election results.
The state must put both resources and urgency behind efforts to insure the integrity of every ballot cast in Pennsylvania. That means acting quickly to replace aging machines like those in York County with systems that provide both increased security and access to paper records.