We’re just two months away from the November mid-term elections, and across the country, states are taking steps to make sure voting is more secure.
Pennsylvania is one of those states, but some new changes could wind up costing taxpayers more money.
Over the past several weeks, Jeff Greenburg — Mercer County’s director of elections — and other county officials have been talking with several companies being considered for supplying the county with new voting machines.
Those companies are Clear Ballot, Hart InterCivic, Election Systems & Software, Unisyn Voting Solutions and Dominion Voting Systems.
“When I started here 12 years ago, I never thought I would be talking about cyber issues,” Greenburg said.
Those cyber issues come at the order of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.
Wolf told all counties to replace their electronic voting systems with machines that leave paper trails, as a safeguard against hacking.
According to state officials, Pennsylvania was one of 21 states targeted by hackers before the 2016 election.
Still, Greenburg believes it’s unlikely Mercer County’s voting computers were targeted, because the computers they use on election night are never connected to the internet.
“No way that I am aware of that someone can hack into a system that’s a stand-alone system,” Greenburg said.
The state has also taken action to try and combat hacking.
Even though state officials say there was no evidence that hackers actually got into Pennsylvania’s election system, Greenburg and dozens of other county leaders went through a training session several weeks ago.
The four-hour session went over different cyber issues that could potentially be encountered.
Taxpayers are wondering how much the new machines will cost and if a change even needed to be made.
Depending on which voting machines the county chooses, it could cost anywhere from $750,000 to $2.5 million — a price a lot of people say is just too much.
“It ain’t going to do much difference for us except to make it more complicated to see who they want in office,” said Christopher Nottingham, of Greenville.
“I think the old system was fine. Our county had a good system, it seemed it was working well,” said Carl Jewell, of Mercer.
There will be some state and federal funding.
Greenburg says Pennsylvania will receive around $13 million, but isn’t exactly sure how much of that will go to Mercer County. He also expects around $100,00 from the state.
“If the state doesn’t come up with funding, the federal government doesn’t come up with any additional funding, the county taxpayers are going to fit the bill,” he said.
The county commissioners will make a decision about which vendor to use by the end of 2018. They plan to introduce the new voting system by November of 2019.