A grassroots effort to examine — and likely replace — Allegheny County’s voting machines has itself been struggling for lack of a vote. Its latest challenge came Friday morning in the courtroom of Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James. At issue is a 16-page proposal to establish a “voting process review commission,” which would study the county’s electronic voting machines and recommend replacements. Under the measure, supported by the League of Women Voters and VoteAllegheny, voters would have to approve a referendum to pay for any new equipment. Activists fear that electronic touch-screen machines like those used in Allegheny County are susceptible to hacking — and that because those machines do not produce a hard copy of votes cast, there may be no way to get a reliable tally of votes.
Supporters tried, and failed, to gather signatures needed to put the proposal before voters in a referendum this fall. They had more luck with a parallel effort: obtaining 500 signatures on petitions requiring Allegheny County Council to consider the legislation on its own.
But in August, the county solicitor’s office, carrying out a required legal review, determined the measure was unlawful. State law bars voters from weighing in on the purchase of specific machines, county lawyers determined, and the commission would encroach on the turf of the county’s three-member Board of Elections.