Friday, January 27, 2006

Voting machine help on the way?

Every county in Pennsylvania is under the gun to select new voting machines or risk losing millions of federal dollars to help pay for them. The problem is the state has not certified many machines that satisfy real concerns about security and reliability. Luzerne County is reluctant to pick a new machine and so is Allegheny County. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette :

But the three-member elections board, which includes county Chief Executive Dan Onorato, put off a final decision because of concerns that the machines won't come equipped with paper printouts that voters can use to check their choices. Both Mr. Onorato and County Council have said they want machines with paper trails, but the Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections and must certify all machines, hasn't yet approved any touchscreen machines with that feature.

"This is outrageous that we've been put in this position," said County Councilman Dave Fawcett, R-Oakmont, a member of the elections board. "Harrisburg has totally dropped the ball."
Angela Chan, deputy director of administrative services, told the board that Diebold could later equip its machines with paper printers at a cost of $2.6 million.


The state Legislature is currently considering a bill that would mandate the use of paper trails.

These are not the only places having problems with this mandate. Bucks, Westmoreland and many other counties are up against the wall and they are asking for relief. Now a bill has been introduced in Congress to extend the deadline.

Rep. Fitzpatrick (R-PA8) wants to delay voting machine law. He says time would give counties choices. Federal aid is at stake.

U.S. Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick plans to introduce legislation in Congress next week to delay implementation of the federal law that has caused a scramble among area counties to replace or upgrade their voting machines by the spring primary. Under the act, if counties don't have the new machines in place by the May primary, they risk losing federal aid earmarked to help them buy the new devices. Most counties in the region are assessing electronic models to replace their old lever machines or upgrade electronic machines to meet the law's requirements.

'"If the county commissioners don't have the ability to get new technology and make the right choices, they should not be penalized for it,'" he said.

Fitzpatrick's bill would delay implementation of the law until the November election. Under the legislation, the responsibility for obtaining the delay falls on the state government, which would have to prove '"good cause'" for postponing the effective date. The state would have to make its case to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the panel set up by Congress to administer the act and disburse the federal funds to the states, which in turn make them available to counties. According to Fitzpatrick, "good cause'" could include an insistence by the counties that the available technology is "insufficient'" and they'd prefer to wait until more systems that include paper backups are available.

I do not like this rush into making voting more complicated. My fear is many people will be intimidated by these new machines. Nothing will ever stop me from voting but many times I have heard the phrase "I don't know anything about computers."

I have a novel idea: Use Paper Ballots. It's simple, you have a paper trail and it will cost a lot less than buying electronic voting machines.

1 comment:

Bill Fitzpatrick said...

Rep Mike Fitzpatrick is awsome