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Commissioners Consider Joining Push for Funding for Voting Systems

by on March 07, 2018 7:30 PM

The Centre County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday discussed joining with others around the state to call on federal legislators to renew funding for voting technology.

Commissioner Michael Pipe said that about 12 ago years funding was provided through the Help America Vote Act to counties nationwide to purchase new voting systems. Now the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) is writing to legislators, and asking each county to do the same, to consider a new round of funding for voting technology.

"It’s an issue that’s very important, as we’ve been learning over the last few years," Pipe said. "Centre County’s election equipment is very much ready to go for the primary this year and into 2019, and it will probably last into the 2020 election. But beyond that, that board of commissioners will certainly be having to look at a replacement system in the near future."

Commissioner Steve Dershem said he is supportive of the effort, but he is confident in the current system in use in Centre County and believes it will be sustainable for years to come.

"I don’t know that we have an urgency here in Centre County," Dershem said. "I think our system is very strong, very sound, very simple. I don’t think we’re in the same situation some other counties are that maybe have obsolete systems. Our system is still an active and updateable system.

"I think ours is good for a number of years yet, either way. Whether we get funding our not I think we’re in good shape. I don’t think it’s an urgency for us, but other counties I can certainly see where they’re panicked."

Dershem added that while funding may become available, he hopes the county doesn't have to go through the arduous process of selecting and implementing a new system any time soon.

Pipe agreed that Centre County's voting system is in good shape, but said it's important to have the issue on the radar of federal legislators who may be planning out four or five years.

Commissioner Mark Higgins said that eventually the technology will need to be updated.

"While I hope our current system does continue to function for a number of years, it does have technology in it that at some point vendors will say ‘Hey, this stuff’s 10, 15 years old. We’re giving you a year or two notice to tell you need to upgrade this stuff.’"

CCAP has made funding for election systems one of its seven priorities for 2018 and is also asking state legislators and the governor to provide funding.

According to CCAP, most Pennsylvania counties replaced their systems 2006 and the equipment typically has a lifespan of 10 to 15 years.

Pipe said the county Board of Elections likely will meet later in March or early April and will consider approving the letter to send to federal legislators.

"This is just a letter – it never hurts to ask – encouraging our federal legislators to keep the funding on their priority list," Pipe said.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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