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Politics & Government

Report: Pennsylvania Voting Systems Could Be Improved

A new report [PDF] delves into the verity and safeguards surrounding the country's electronic voting systems. Three non-partisan organizations — Common Cause, the Verified Voting Foundation, and researchers at Rutgers University — created the study, which measures each state's ability to audit and verify voting records.

The report asked five questions in its assessment of the states:

  • Does the state require paper ballots or records?
  • Does the state have contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure?
  • Does the state protect military and overseas voters by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online?
  • Has the state instituted a post-election audit that can determine whether the electronically reported outcomes are correct?
  • Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices?

According to the report, one of Pennsylvania's biggest challenges is its aging electronic voting systems. "That means they're going to have more breakage, more equipment failing, and not being able to perform on election day, so ballot contingency plans are going to be crucial for Pennsylvania," said Common Cause spokeswoman Mary Boyle.
Overall, the Commonwealth earned a "generally good" rating, and scored "excellent" for making sure marked ballots are not cast online. It also was given good marks for polling place contingency plans, but needs improvement in its ability to conduct post-election audits.

Boyle noted that while the state has had an audit law on the books for decades, "in some of the counties they can't carry out the audit because they don't have the voter archival records, but they do carry it out in other counties. Pennsylvania — being a large swing state — it's going to be crucial that they do everything right that they can do right, short of having a re-countable system."

The report's authors said states still have time to improve contingency plans and protect voting records.