Some counties are paying a lot more for less secure voting machines | Friday Morning Coffee

Good morning, fellow seekers.

Your faithful Associate Editor Sarah here again, helming the Morning Coffee while John is on vacation.

A new analysis from Pitt Cyber and Citizens for Better Elections finds that some county voters are paying nearly double for new voting machines compared to their neighbors.

That’s even as experts say the cheaper systems — which involve a hand-marked paper ballot — are more secure.

“… The average county cost per voter for an [all-ballot-marking devices] configuration ($23.35) is nearly twice as expensive as a [hand-marked paper ballots] plus BMD configuration ($12.51),” the analysis finds. “Unsurprisingly, most counties (24) have selected the HMPB plus BMD configuration, representing nearly 60% of registered voters in the 31 counties that have selected a new voting system.”

In 2018, Gov. Tom Wolf‘s administration announced that counties would be required to buy new voting machines before the 2020 primaries. To help counties pay for the machines, the governor in July ordered a $90 million bond issue to cover 60 percent of the costs incurred.

Citizens for Better Elections, a “nonpartisan citizens’ group dedicated to promoting election security and efficiency in Pennsylvania,” says hand-marked paper ballots are the gold standard, as they put as “little technology between the voter and their vote as possible, preventing the possibility of errors due to machine malfunction, mis-calibration, or hacking.”

A recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice doubles down on this advice, as Route Fifty notes.

“Paper-based systems provide better security because they create a paper record that voters can review before casting their ballot,” the Brennan Center report states. “However, these paper records will be of little security value unless they are used to check and confirm electronic tallies.”

Secretary of Human Services Teresa Miller, foreground, with Gov. Tom Wolf, background. (Courtesy of Wolf administration)

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On our Commentary Page: John A. Tures, professor of political science at LaGrange College, considers: Did the assault weapons ban reduce mass shootings? Just look at the data.

Also in Commentary: Penn State researchers consider the cost of the opioid epidemic.

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At 10 a.m., Gov. Wolf will sign an executive order to combat gun violence. The signing was pushed from Thursday to Friday after six Philadelphia police officers were shot.

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And now you’re up to date.

Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes covers the governor and Pennsylvania's agencies. Before joining the Capital-Star, she was the state capitol reporter for Billy Penn and The Incline, and a 2018 corps member for Report for America. She was previously managing editor of Washington City Paper, editor-in-chief of DCist, and a national blogger for The Washington Post.

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