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New Pennsylvania Law Gains Counties $90M to Secure Voting Machines

A new Pennsylvania law will provide $90 million to help the state’s counties replace outdated and non-secure voting machines with new systems to fortify election security.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) late last week signed the bill, which also reforms ways the state’s citizens can vote. The funds will reimburse counties for 60 percent of what they’ve spent on replacing older voting equipment with machines that can process verifiable paper ballots by the 2020 election. Pennsylvania’s Department of State last year ordered counties to update their equipment to a stronger security profile.

Many of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties lacked the necessary funds to purchase or upgrade their voting systems, a problem the new law solves to a degree. At this point, 46 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, or roughly 70 percent, have installed the new systems. Federal lawmakers previously appropriated $380 million in 2018 to go to states to bolster election security, with Pennsylvania receiving around $13.5 million. Those funds went toward helping the state’s counties to replace outmoded voting machines.

Beaver County Commissioners applauded the state legislature for passing the bill. “We finally got our unfunded mandate funded,” said Beaver County Commissioner Tony Amadio (via the Beaver County Times). According to the report, Beaver County paid $1.3 million for 160 scanners to read paper ballots filled out by voters and 135 touch-screen adaptive machines. The state already pledged $182,000 in funding, Commissioner Chairman Daniel Camp said. It will cost the county about $284,000 annually for five years to pay for the machines, the report said.

Kathi Cozzone, president of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, said the funding is “crucial for counties who are continuing to work to meet requirements to purchase new, voter-verifiable paper trail elections systems by April 2020.”

Pennsylvania’s measure comes a week after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed into law a bill aimed at insulating that state’s election systems and electoral processes from hackers. Ohio’s election security law requires each county to audit three separate races to validate the outcome in every general election and even-year primary elections. It also establishes the Ohio Cyber Reserve—a new division of the Ohio National Guard that specializes in cybersecurity staffed by trained civilian volunteers.

Last June, the House passed the fiscal 2020 financial services and general government funding bill, which includes $600 million to be given to the Election Assistance Commission to distribute to states for election security. And, last month, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) approved a new infusion of $250 million to help states guard against outside interference in the 2020 elections.

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