To Pennsylvania State Legislators:
As business leaders, we believe that a robust economy that works for business and creates opportunities for all Pennsylvanians rests on a healthy democracy where we can trust that elections are fair, secure, and accessible. We are concerned that the Keystone State stands to lose out on competitive opportunities as companies, entrepreneurs, and voters question the state’s ability to deliver well-run elections.
Protecting the integrity of elections is one of our government’s most fundamental responsibilities. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s election infrastructure is outdated and vulnerable. In fact, our state earned a “D” in the Center for American Progress’ 2018 report Election Security in All 50 States. Pennsylvania was one of 21 states identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as being targeted by foreign hackers before the 2016 presidential election, and such interference is likely to return in 2020 in our battleground state, with close presidential and congressional elections. This, plus our reliance on antiquated equipment, makes us a likely target for those wishing to undermine our republic.
During the 2018 election, an estimated 83 percent of Pennsylvanians voted on machines with no auditable paper record. These legacy election systems don’t allow voters to verify their ballot, are unable to ferret out potential fraud, and cannot guarantee that every vote is counted. Fifty counties in Pennsylvania currently use direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines, none of which produce paper records of the votes cast.
To those that contend that Pennsylvania’s current system is adequate, we respond: sticking with vulnerable 15- to 20-year-old technology to save money or because nothing has gone wrong thus far epitomizes the adage “penny wise and pound foolish.” It may cost more up front, but an investment in better systems will result in better outcomes in terms of security, reliability, service quality, and customer satisfaction. It’s time to recognize that just like roads and airports, our election infrastructure is vital to our state’s functioning. We need to invest the resources necessary to build a system we can all trust.
The longer we wait to implement these common-sense solutions, the more our reputation and self-image will suffer — both outside of Pennsylvania and here in the Keystone State, where some citizens and businesses are becoming so disenchanted that they are reluctant to start new business ventures, run for office or, sadly, even vote. This lack of confidence can prove harmful to Pennsylvania’s economy.
We urge our elected state and local officials to safeguard both our democratic and economic system by taking the needed steps to ensure election integrity. We need to know that every qualified voter has access, that every vote is captured accurately, and that no interference occurs. We want to stop lagging behind other states and earn an “A” for our elections.
We ask the General Assembly to address our state’s election infrastructure vulnerabilities with these common-sense solutions recommended by the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security in their January 2019 report:
- Replace vulnerable voting machines (direct-recording electronic or DRE) with systems using voter-marked paper ballots before 2020
- Allocate the funds necessary to help cover the cost of counties’ purchase of these new voting systems
- Conduct rigorous post-election audits to ensure accuracy using the best statistical methods available after each election
- Improve the maintenance and integrity of voter rolls
- Adopt cybersecurity guidelines that promote best practices and reduce costs
- Support the continued role of the PA Department of State in certifying machines and conducting cybersecurity training for state personnel and local election officials throughout Pennsylvania
Our elections are complex. But the principal aim — to hold elections that are secure, accurate, and accessible — is more important than the obstacles we face in budgeting, red tape, and politics. As business leaders, our responsibility is not just to our employees, shareholders, and customers — it is also to our community and to the democratic institutions that are fundamental to our society. We urge all elected officials to protect our elections by funding the upgrades necessary to build a secure, modern, accessible election system that all Pennsylvanians can trust.