Pennsylvania County Voting Systems: An Analysis
Originally published August 15, 2019; last updated 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.
For a printable synopsis, please click here.
Voting System Configurations and Costs
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.
Voting System Vendors
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.