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 October 9, 2019

Updated versions of the maps are available here.



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 ($24.20) is nearly twice as expensive as a HMPB plus BMD configuration ($12.18). Unsurprisingly, most counties (30) have selected the HMPB plus BMD configuration, representing more than 66% of registered voters in the 41 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-seven of the 41 counties that have selected a new voting system in the analysis, accounting for nearly 70% of the registered voters in those 41 counties, have selected ES&S. This includes Pennsylvania’s most populous county: Philadelphia.

To read more about our methodology and the sources on which this analysis relies, click this link. We will update the principal maps as additional counties select new voting systems at this link.

Voting Systems | The Configuration


This analysis includes 41 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties that have selected a new voting system. Of those 41 counties, 30 have chosen a HMPB plus BMD configuration, representing more than 66% of the registered voters across all 41 counties. The other 11 counties have chosen an All-BMD configuration, representing the other roughly 33% 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—$12.18 per voter for the HMPB plus BMD configuration versus $24.20 per voter for the All-BMD configuration—and voter verification and security concerns associated with BMDs are likely important factors driving most counties (30 out of 41) 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 41 counties that have selected a new voting system in the analysis, 27 counties (representing nearly 70% of the registered in those 41 counties) have chosen ES&S. 


For a printable synopsis, please click here.