Westmoreland County, Pa., to Spend $7.1M on Voting Machines

The Pittsburgh-area county has allocated the money in hopes that the state will follow through on a promise to help pay for new voting machines. Westmoreland's current machines do not leave a paper trail.

(TNS) — Westmoreland County, Pa., commissioners on Thursday authorized the purchase of $7.1 million worth of new voting equipment.

They are hoping a promise from the state, which mandated counties purchase new equipment with verifiable paper trails, to reimburse part of the cost comes through. Gov. Tom Wolf last year called for the implementation of new voting systems for the 2020 presidential election that enable officials to check that tallies registered by the computerized systems are accurate.

“Apparently, we’re supposed to get 50 percent in reimbursement from the state,” Commissioner Gina Cerilli said.

Commissioner Charles Anderson said they anticipate getting the funding, but haven’t heard anything concrete from the state yet.

County officials have been mulling over the purchase for more than a year and public demonstrations from several companies have been held during that time. The commissioners opted to purchase machines from Election Systems & Software. The $7.1 million cost includes maintenance and support for 10 years.

The machines will be ready to go for the 2020 primary election. County officials are planning to have outreach sessions prior to that in an effort to familiarize voters with the new system.

Commissioner Ted Kopas was pleased the purchase price was lower than expected. County officials this year borrowed nearly $44 million
for a series of capital projects, including $8.2 million allocated for buying new voting machines.

“I remain confident the state will fund half as promised,” he said. “I think we got a quality system.”

County Elections Bureau director Beth Lechman said voters will insert a piece of paper into a machine and make their selections. The voter can review their choices that will be printed on the paper before taking it to a scanner to be tabulated electronically.

“This was a hybrid option we were looking at,” she said.

Westmoreland County’s current 880 touchscreen computers in use since 2005 do not produce a paper record, but rather results are downloaded to a central computer at the courthouse.

“While there’s going to be some learning curve to the new system, I think, in the end, it’s very simple, straightforward,” Kopas said.

©2019 Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.