Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security

Pennsylvania Counties' New Voting Systems: An Analysis

Christopher Deluzio, Kevin Skoglund

Originally published August 15, 2019; last updated on February 28, 2020.



Pennsylvania counties have selected new paper-based voting machines. These upgrades are urgently needed and will vastly improve the Commonwealth’s lackluster election security, which The Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security (hosted by Pitt Cyber) has thoroughly documented. Each county has the power to select a voting system and configuration from the systems that the Pennsylvania Department of State has certified. The information below—the result of a collaboration between Pitt Cyber and Citizens for Better Elections—provides detail and analysis of these county decisions, which will likely have a profound impact on the security of democracy in Pennsylvania and beyond.

Analysis of county voting system selections to date yields several important insights. First, counties that have purchased exclusively ballot-marking devices (or “BMDs”)—as opposed to optical scan machines that tabulate hand-marked paper ballots (or “HMPBs”) supplemented by BMDs for voters who are unable to hand-mark—are paying substantially more on a per voter basis. In fact, the average county cost per voter for an All-BMD configuration ($23.15) is twice as expensive as a HMPB plus BMD configuration ($11.01). Unsurprisingly, more than two-thirds of Pennsylvania counties have selected the HMPB plus BMD configuration.            

Second, the nation’s largest voting system vendor—ES&S—has been the clear dominant vendor. Thirty-eight of the Commonwealth’s 67 counties, accounting for more than 60 percent of the registered voters in Pennsylvania, have selected ES&S. This includes Pennsylvania’s two most populous counties: Allegheny and Philadelphia.

To read more about our methodology and the sources on which this analysis relies, click this link

Voting Systems | The Configuration


Voting Systems | The Costs


Counties that have selected an All-BMD configuration are paying nearly twice as much on average as those counties that have chosen a HMPB plus BMD configuration.

These dramatic cost savings—$11.01 per voter for the HMPB plus BMD configuration versus $23.15 per voter for the All-BMD configuration—and voter verification and security concerns associated with BMDs are likely important factors driving most counties to select the HMPB plus BMD configuration.     

Voting Systems | The Vendor Selections


ES&S, the nation’s largest voting system vendor, has secured its dominance in Pennsylvania. Of the 67 counties in the Commonwealth, 38 counties (representing more than 60 percent of the registered voters in Pennsylvania) have chosen ES&S. 


For a printable synopsis, please click here.