The Philadelphia city commissioners have postponed a vote scheduled for Wednesday on acquiring a new voting-machine system, delaying a process that has drawn criticism for its speed and lack of transparency. The commissioners were awaiting a confidential committee’s evaluation of bids to supply new systems — which are required — but had not received a final recommendation by late Tuesday, resulting in the delay. “The selection committee made its recommendations to the Procurement Department for additional negotiations of price and other terms,” the commissioners said in a statement Tuesday night. The city’s selection process has come under fire, with city and state officials joining activists in raising concerns about transparency and speed.
City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart had asked the commissioners to delay the vote to receive more public input. And on Monday, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale held a news conference to express his concerns about ethics and the selection timeline. “Now, I understand the need to move quickly, but I don’t think there was a full accounting of this process,” he said, adding that the city’s request for proposals appeared written to favor one vendor.
The commissioners say they are simply following Gov. Tom Wolf’s directive that counties quickly upgrade their voting machines to safer systems that produce a paper trail. As for transparency, they say they are adhering to the city’s procurement process, which requires the confidential committee to make a recommendation to them.
“It is not an ideal situation for us to be in. It is a very sped-up timeline, but it is a timeline that is the result of what the governor has asked each county in Pennsylvania to do,” said Lisa Deeley, who chairs the commissioners.