Protecting the integrity of our elections is one of our government’s most essential responsibilities. Much like roads, the electric grid, and airports, our election systems are critical infrastructure. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s outmoded election systems prevent easy access to the ballot, are unable to ferret out potential fraud, and cannot guarantee that every vote is counted in the 2020 election.
Continued reliance on undependable, 15- to 20-year old election systems calls into question state and local government effectiveness. Business leaders understand that this growing lack of confidence undermines trust in government and is ultimately harmful to Pennsylvania’s business climate and economy. In fact, a 2017 Harvard Business School study found that political dysfunction is the greatest obstacle to U.S. economic competitiveness.
These shortcomings reflect poorly on Pennsylvania and are harmful to the state’s economic reputation and competitiveness. By addressing the root issues of our outmoded election systems and polarized political system, we can start to rebuild trust, solve the crucial challenges facing our state and country, and achieve economic prosperity.
Facts & Figures
- Pennsylvania’s election security has been rated among the most vulnerable in the nation.
- In 2017, PA was notified by the Department of Homeland Security that it was one of 21 states whose registration systems Russian hackers tried to penetrate.
- In 2018, more than 80% of Pennsylvanians voted on machines that have no way to audit and verify the vote count.
- PA received a “D” grade from a Center for American Progress report assessing state election cybersecurity.
- Outdated voting machines could be replaced for $9.76 for every Pennsylvanian.
The Current Situation
In April 2018, Governor Wolf issued an executive order requiring all 67 counties to have new equipment with voter-verifiable paper records in place before the 2020 presidential election. Then in November, Wolf’s administration settled a lawsuit that accused Pennsylvania of violating voters’ constitutional rights with continued use of voting machines susceptible to hacking. The settlement requires the state to ensure every Pennsylvania voter uses a “voter-verifiable paper ballot” in 2020.
It is estimated that it will take $125 million to acquire new equipment. The Governor’s 2019 budget calls for the state to provide $15 million per year for five years, for a total of $75 million. State legislators in Harrisburg are grappling with how to come up with the additional revenue — and how much the counties must cover.