CLEARFIELD – On Tuesday the Clearfield County Commissioners voiced concerns about not having funding to purchase new voting machines, as required by a state mandate.
On Friday Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed Senate Bill 48, which would have provided $90 million in voter machine funding to Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. The governor issued the following statement on his decision.
“Pennsylvania must secure its elections and provide real reform that makes it easier to vote,” said Wolf. “Senate Bill 48 makes changes to our elections that I do not believe strike the right balance to improve access to voters or security.
“The bill weakens the ability of the commonwealth and counties to quickly respond to security needs of voting systems in the future, creating unnecessary bureaucracy and potentially harmful delays.
“Further, as we approach an election with anticipated large turnout and new voting technology, I’m concerned the isolated removal of a convenient voting option would increase waiting times and could discourage participation.
“I repeatedly sought improvements to this bill that would ease access to voting and decrease waiting times, but those changes were not accepted.
“National security and cybersecurity experts, including the Trump administration, are urging Pennsylvania and other states to have new voting systems with advanced security and a paper trail.
“Counties have embraced the need to replace voting machines to combat hacking and improve the accuracy of recounts. I applaud their dedication to protecting the integrity of our elections, and I remain committed to voting machine funding.”
Commissioner John A. Sobel, chairman, said this puts Clearfield County “back to square one.” He said now all counties have to share from the current funding pot of $13.5 million from the federal government.
He said it’s expected to cost Pennsylvania counties $150 million to replace their voting equipment, and counties are expected to meet the state mandate by Dec. 31, 2019.
He said the commissioners have spoken with a representative from the governor’s office, and were reassured Wolf is committed to coming up with at least 50 percent of the funding.
“The county has a very tight budget … this isn’t a very good position to be in,” Sobel said, reminding citizens that “this is a state mandate” and adding the county’s current voting machines still work just as well.
Commissioner Mark B. McCracken said earlier this year, the county’s Board of Election selected a new paper ballot system; however, it delayed its selection of a vendor to await more information about funding and state officials were notified.
In their letter, he said the commissioners stipulated the state must come up with at least 50 percent of the funding. Originally, he said the governor’s plan was to allocate $15 million annually over a five-year period; then, state lawmakers proposed $90 million up-front.
McCracken said perhaps it was time for the commissioners to send another letter to state officials reminding them of the county’s decision to delay selection of a vendor and purchase of voting machines until they came up with the funding.