CLEARFIELD — Clearfield County Commissioners are concerned they will have to replace all of the county’s election machines prior to the 2020 Presidential Election.
At yesterday’s meeting, the commissioners expressed concerns about the possible directives from the state and federal government for all election machines be replaced with ones that also keep a paper record of the votes.
Currently, the county’s election machines are electronic voting machines and do not have paper ballots.
But there appear to be conflicting reports. Commissioner John Sobel said the state has directed counties that whenever voting machines are replaced, it is to replace them with voting machines that keep a paper record of the vote.
However on April 12, the Pennsylvania Department of State issued a press release that appears to be a mandate.
“Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres today informed Pennsylvania’s counties to have voter-verifiable paper record voting systems selected no later than Dec. 31, 2019 and preferably in place for the November 2019 general election,” the press release states.
The state is receiving $13.5 million from the federal government to assist in the transition. However, Commissioner Mark McCracken said this amount is a “drop in the bucket” of what it will cost to replace all of the voting machines in the state.
McCracken said this is an unfunded mandate if more money isn’t forthcoming from the state or federal government.
“There really isn’t sufficient funding, so the cost is going to fall back on county taxpayers and the county,” Sobel said. “This is a challenge facing Clearfield County.”
The county replaced all of its voting machines in 2005 at a cost of $700,000 — all of which was paid for with federal money, McCracken said.
Replacing the machines could cost as much as $1 million.
McCracken said the county hadn’t planned on replacing its election machines or setting aside money for their replacement because current equipment is working fine.
And he noted, it is impossible for the county’s voting machines to be hacked because they are not connected to the internet.
McCracken said he and county Director of Elections Dawn Graham are going to Ridgway to look at some of the new state certified voting systems.
‘It’s unfortunate because this is another unfunded mandate forced down the county’s throat,” Commissioner Tony Scotto said.
Scotto said the county is already running at a deficit and that the state and federal governments should provide additional money for the new machines.
Commissioners said they will be lobbying state and federal governments for more money to replace the voting machines if they mandate they be replaced by 2020.