People often complain about long lines when they go to cast their vote on Election Day, particularly in presidential election years, but imagine how much worse it would be if large numbers of the state’s aging voting machines broke down and parts to fix them were hard to come by. It’s that type of scenario that Sen. Elder Vogel, R-Beaver County, hopes to avoid. He authored a resolution calling for a study on aging voting machines in the state that the Senate adopted last month. It directs the Joint State Government Commission to complete the study within the next 18 months and issue its findings and recommendations. County election officials are already “scavenging parts” when problems arise, he said. He wants to be proactive “before it becomes a crisis.” Barry Kauffman, a senior adviser to Common Cause Pennsylvania, agrees this is an issue that needs to be dealt with – and soon. “We know these machines are aging out … some of the software isn’t even serviced anymore,” Kauffman said. “There is a serious need to protect the integrity of our elections.” Along with that, he would like to see more voting machines that are user-friendly and ensure votes are counted correctly. “In the end, we need timely, accurate results,” he said.
Strangely, the machines that are becoming outdated are the more recently purchased machines.
Vogel met with the election officials in Butler County to discuss the problems of machine failures they have faced with the fleet of machines they and several other counties purchased in 2006 that are touch-screen operated and completely electronic. These iVotronic machines are the most popular voting machines in use by Pennsylvania counties. They typically have a 10-15 year lifespan.
The next voting machine most frequently used on Election Day are the ELECTronic model, an older-style machine that uses buttons rather than a touch screen that has been in use since 1985 in some counties. Dauphin County, along with five other counties including Philadelphia, uses them.