Originally published August 15, 2019; last updated on August 26, 2019
Pennsylvania counties are in the midst of selecting 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 seven 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 ($24.60) is nearly twice as expensive as a HMPB plus BMD configuration ($12.37). Unsurprisingly, most counties (27) have selected the HMPB plus BMD configuration, representing more than 60% of registered voters in the 37 counties that have selected a new voting system and are included in the analysis.
Second, the nation’s largest voting system vendor—ES&S—has been the clear dominant vendor. Twenty-four of the 37 counties that have selected a new voting system, accounting for 63% of the registered voters in those 37 counties, have selected ES&S. This includes Pennsylvania’s most populous county: Philadelphia.
Voting Systems | The Configuration
This analysis includes 37 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties that have selected a new voting system. Of those 37 counties, 27 have chosen a HMPB plus BMD configuration, representing more than 60% of the registered voters across all 37 counties. The other 10 counties have chosen an All-BMD configuration, representing the other nearly 40% of registered voters.
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—$12.37 per voter for the HMPB plus BMD configuration versus $24.60 per voter for the All-BMD configuration—and voter verification and security concerns associated with BMDs are likely important factors driving most counties (27 out of 37) to select the HMPB plus BMD configuration.
Voting Systems | The Vendor Selections
ES&S, the nation’s largest voting system vendor, is well on its way to securing its dominance in Pennsylvania. Of the 37 counties that have selected a new voting system, 24 counties (representing 63% of the registered in those 37 counties) have chosen ES&S.
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