‘These are key elections’: State officials pledge safe and secure voting on Pennsylvania primary day

    Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar speaks at the PEMA headquarters on May 21.
    Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar speaks at the PEMA headquarters on May 21.

    Polling places across Pennsylvania saw modest voter turnout but no major issues in the early hours of the May 21 primary, the state’s top election official said Tuesday.

    “Things seem very smooth,” said acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, who appeared alongside state security officials Tuesday morning to assure Pennsylvanians of the safety and security of that day’s elections.

    Voters across Pennsylvania will vote in primary as well as special elections. Polls opened at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m.

    “I’m urging everyone to please go to the polls to vote,” Boockvar said. “These are key races… Local elections make decisions that impact people’s day to day lives.”

    Boockvar spoke from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency headquarters in suburban Harrisburg, where the Department of State is staging its election day operations for the first time.

    State election experts, security professionals, and state emergency personnel at the PEMA headquarters are prepared to respond to election day problems as they arise, officials said.

    “All of us working together, under one roof, improves coordination and communication with other agencies and the counties,” Boockvar said.

    Pennsylvania primary 2019: Your guide to Tuesday’s statewide and special elections

    The Department of State, the Office of Homeland Security, and PEMA are part of Pennsylvania’s Interagency Workgroup on Election Preparedness and Security, which Gov. Tom Wolf convened in July.

    The working group is part of a larger effort to bolster Pennsylvania’s election security and integrity.

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in 2017 that Pennsylvania was one of 22 states targeted in an unsuccessful Russian breach of voter registration data in 2016. Officials say that Pennsylvania’s status as a swing state could make it particularly vulnerable to similar attacks in the 2020 presidential election.

    Counties across Pennsylvania are also in the process of replacing their voting machines with ones that issue a voter-verified paper trail. Boockvar said that voters in nine counties across the state will cast ballots on new voting machines Tuesday.

    The rest of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties must adopt the new technology by 2020.

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