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Pennsylvania County Dismisses Election Security Concerns

A report from the Associated Press Sunday called into question the security of election infrastructure that runs the Windows 7 operating system. Microsoft will no longer support Windows 7 beyond Jan. 14, 2020.

by Eric Mark, The Citizen's Voice / July 15, 2019

(TNS) — Each of three proposed voting systems being considered for purchase by Luzerne County runs secure software and will be safe to use in next year’s election, according to county officials.

An Associated Press article published Sunday stated that many voting systems throughout the nation run Windows 7, a Microsoft operating system that will reach the end of its support cycle on Jan. 14, 2020.

Microsoft will no longer provide security patches to devices running Windows 7 after that date, which could pose security risks for some voting systems in next year’s primary and general elections, according to the AP. Systems that run Windows 10, the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system, should be secure, according to election security experts quoted in the article.

Luzerne County voters have nothing to fear, according to county Manager David Pedri.

All three proposed voting systems — each of which provides some form of verifiable “paper trail” for added security — run Windows 10, Pedri said in an email sent Sunday.

Two members of a committee studying the proposals said they are confident the new machines will be secure, no matter which vendor the county chooses.

The issue of a potentially out-of-support operating system “has been discussed with the manufacturers,” committee member Peter Ouellette said Sunday.

Ouellette said he is confident the prospective vendors — Election Systems & Software, Dominion Voting Systems and Hart InterCivic — understand the machines must run on fully supported software, including the operating system.

Committee member Rick Williams, a former county councilman, said “there have been discussions” between the committee and the prospective vendors regarding software and operating system requirements.

The systems proposed by each vendor have obtained all needed certifications, Williams said.

The committee is waiting for the vendors to respond to questions about details of the proposed systems, after which it will recommend one of the systems to county council, according to Ouellette.

Council will decide which system to purchase and is not bound by the committee’s recommendation.

Ensuring that the chosen system runs on supported software will be a priority for council members, according to council Chairman Tim McGinley.

“We have to make sure the software is compatible,” McGinley said Sunday. “That’s something that I am sure will come up as a question.”

McGinley stood by earlier statements that he would not support borrowing money to pay for the voting machines, estimated to cost $3.5 million to $4 million.

Gov. Tom Wolf on July 5 vetoed a bill that would have provided up to $90 million in state borrowing to help counties pay for “paper-trail” voting machines. Wolf said he did not like other provisions in the bill, such as the elimination of straight ticket party voting.

Last week, Wolf said he intends to proceed with the borrowing, which would fund up to 60% of the cost of new voting machines for counties, without legislative approval.

If that happens, Luzerne County would receive slightly more than $2 million in state funding for new voting machines. It already has about $300,000 in federal funding.

The county should be able to find the remaining funds, totaling more than $1 million, without borrowing, McGinley said.

The committee hopes to submit its recommendation to council by the end of the summer, Ouellette said.

©2019 The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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