Hidden costs of new voting machines

  • Emily Previti, PA Post

I recently started reporting on what at first appeared to be a relatively straightforward story. It’s about who pays the future costs of updating and patching the software that powers the voting systems now being bought by Pennsylvania’s counties. As is often the case, the answers were complicated – and different for each county 🎉. I reviewed dozens of contracts to try to figure things out. In the end, there isn’t a straightforward answer. We aren’t finished reporting on this issue, but my first attempt to get answers is the story detailed below. -Emily Previti, Newsletter Producer/Reporter

Taxpayers on the hook (again)

John Hastings, regional sales manager with Dominion Voting Systems, explains how the company's auditing system works to officials in Columbia County June 26, 2019. (Emily Previti, PA Post)

John Hastings, regional sales manager with Dominion Voting Systems, explains how the company’s auditing system works to officials in Columbia County June 26, 2019. (Emily Previti, PA Post)

  • Pennsylvania’s mass voting machine replacement could be more costly than we realize. There are potential future costs for certain software and security upgrades. They’re hard to predict, could have to be implemented across thousands of machines  – and carry an unknown price tag on top of the up-front costs projected to be well over $100 million. Also, taxpayers bear most of the risk. Read the story here.

  • Next on the voting machine beat: The potential decertification of the ExpressVote XL machine made by Election Systems & Software (ES&S). The Department of State, responding to requests from watchdog groups, is re-examining its approval of the machines for use in Phillyand Northampton County, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Lai reported. Cumberland County decided to go with the machines, too, but could backpedal; commissioners there are waiting to see what DoS does next and say they expect something soon. But there’s no set timeline for the state to act. And DoS hasn’t been willing to provide anything in the way of specifics in response to basic questions, including not pointing to where anything about the process might be set out in writing.

  • My colleague Ed Mahon and I first looked at which election technology companies are getting the most contracts back. ICYMI, check out our story from May.

Best of the rest

South Duke Street in York is seen on June 12, 2019.

Ed Mahon / PA Post

South Duke Street in York is seen on June 12, 2019.

James Robinson / PennLive

The Interstate 83 and Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange, June 14, 2017.

  • PennDOT will cut nearly $290 million during the next four years from funds originally planned to go to transportation projects across the state, according to this post from PennLive’s Jillian Atelsek. Basically, PennDOT thought it would get more money from the state gas tax than it actually has, so the agency scaled back future budgets and projections accordingly, Jillian reports.

  • State law requires police to put information about guns used in crimes into a database — but many departments don’t comply because their officers don’t know about the rules, according to state Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Shapiro’s “Track and Trace” initiative also tries to get gun dealers to report information electronically. WITF’s Katie Meyer has the full rundown here.

  • A recent state court decision on natural gas drilling was favorable in some ways for state regulators, but the ruling also sided on some points with the industry group that initiated the case with a lawsuit against the Department of Environmental Protection and its Environmental Quality Board. WESA’s Liz Reid has the full story for StateImpact Pennsylvania.


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