Episode 12: The price of election security

Perspectives on upgrading voting machines

  • Katie Meyer


Pennsylvania’s voting machines are old, as far as election equipment goes. Most of them came online around 2006 when the state got an influx of federal cash to replace even older ones. Counties are in charge of buying and maintaining the very expensive machines, so there is a wide range of models across the state.

That has led to a snafu or two.

In 2016, after the presidential election, Green Party candidate Jill Stein sued Pennsylvania. One of the grounds was that the voting machines were vulnerable to tampering, and a sticking point in the lawsuit was that a lot of the commonwealth’s machines don’t produce a paper trail. That makes a lot of people skeptical about how accurately they can be double-checked.

A sample ballot provided by a voting machine company hoping to win contracts with Pennsylvania counties.

Governor Tom Wolf’s administration settled the lawsuit just recently. And as part of that settlement, they promised to update all the voting machines—regardless of whether they use paper ballots—before the 2020 election. Officials had already been working on the effort for several months.

A lot of people say it has to get done, one way or another. But others say the state’s playing fast-and-loose with funding. And others question whether the machines really need to be upgraded en masse.

Todd Urosevich, a sales manager with Nebraska-based company Election Systems & Software, explains some of the technology to a visitor at a voting machine expo at Dickinson College.

We’re going to hear all those perspectives. First, Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres, who’s overseeing the process, explains why the state has committed to such an ambitious update. Then GOP Senator John Gordner will discuss his challenge to the administration’s largely-unilateral action on the upgrade. And finally, County Commissioner Jim Hertzler shares his funding concerns.

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