With Pennsylvania’s 67 counties under a mandate to replace their voting systems in time for the 2020 elections, election officials will be facing difficult decisions. But county commissioners — the people voters elect for that purpose — might be frozen out of selecting the voting machines residents will use for more than a decade. Under Pennsylvania’s election code, the county election board is empowered to make decisions on election-related equipment. In most years, county commissioners also serve on the elections board in their counties. However, the commissioners are barred from serving on the board in years they are running for re-election. Next year — 2019 — is an election year for county commissioners. In Mercer County, commissioners Matt McConnell, Scott Boyd and Tim McGonigle could all be running for re-election. If they do, they could be prohibited from choosing Mercer County’s new voting system, which could carry up-front costs of about $1 million. McGonigle said the commissioners would seek guidance on the matter from solicitor William Madden.
McConnell, the commission chairman, has been a critic of Gov. Tom Wolf’s order for counties to adopt new voting systems that will establish a paper trail for votes cast. The county has maintained its current Election Systems & Software iVotronic devices, which McConnell said don’t need to be replaced.
The issue over whether the commissioners will be able to make election-related decisions next year is another unnecessary nuisance, he said.
“It couldn’t be worse timing,” McConnell said of the governor’s order.