Dozens of members and supporters of the group SAVE-Bucks Votes filled the Bucks County Commissioners meeting Wednesday, imploring officials to dump the county’s electronic voting machines in favor of paper ballots. The non-partisan group has been lobbying the commissioners, who also serve as the county’s board of elections, to replace the approximately 900 direct record electronic machines (DRE) with a voter-marked, paper-based optical scan (PBOS) system. Bucks bought the current machines in 2006, after much debate. Addressing the issue is urgent, Paul Springle, of Wrightstown, told the board. During Senate testimony last month, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said not having a way to audit election results is “absolutely a national security concern.” Because electronic machines like the ones used in Bucks produce no paper trail and cannot be properly audited in the event of a challenge or other concerns, they are considered by some to be at risk.
Paper ballots, Springle said, have no chance of being hacked. Once a voter selects his or her candidates, the ballot is inserted into a scanner where a computer records the vote. From there, the ballot drops into a locked box where it stays until polls close.
“This seems to be an important moment,” Springle said. “The need to harden America’s election infrastructure against foreign intrusion and against possible computer error seems to be reaching critical mass.”
Pennsylvania already is moving toward paper ballots. The Pennsylvania Department of State directed that all systems purchased after Feb. 9 must include a voter-verifiable paper ballot or voter-verifiable paper record of votes cast. The department recently issued a call for bids to voting system firms.