Philly needs new voting machines. Here's why the buying process must be kept transparent - Generocity Philly

Purpose

Jan. 9, 2019 4:02 pm

Philly needs new voting machines. Here’s why the buying process must be kept transparent

"As a city, we must prioritize public input," opines Jennifer Devor, a local committeperson and candidate for city commissioner.

VOTE.

(Screenshot via YouTube)

This is a guest post by Jennifer Devor, a Philadelphia committeeperson, former election board worker and candidate for city commissioner.
Philadelphia is poised to make a major, multimillion dollar decision that will impact each and every Philadelphian for years to come: Those giant, push-button electronic voting machines that we’ve used for decades are headed for the voting machine graveyard.

But what will replace them?

Because voting systems with a paper ballot are more reliable, eliminate the threat of cyberattacks and ensure meaningful post-election audits, the Pennsylvania Department of State informed counties in April of 2018 that they must replace their paperless electronic voting machines with new systems that are certified by both the federal and state governments.

These new voting systems are to be purchased by the close of 2019. Philadelphia has earmarked about $22 million toward the purchase of new voting machines, and the state is offering additional funding.

According to leading national experts, the most secure and reliable way to record votes is to let voters mark a paper ballot by hand, with a pen, so there’s no technology between the voter and the ballot, and then put it in a ballot box that includes a scanner. For voters who have difficulty hand-marking a ballot, there must be one ballot-marking device in each polling place. That’s typically a touchscreen computer with assistive input devices, plus a printer. Several of the available systems have these qualifying features and more are being certified.

But other systems are being certified, too. Some require all voters to use touchscreen ballot-marking devices instead of a pen — these systems put more technology between the voter and their vote and are more vulnerable to power outages and technical problems. They also lead to longer lines and costs significantly more both in initial purchase and in maintenance, storage and moving expense.

From our Partners

There are signs that the selection process won’t be as public and transparent as it should be. While it is up to City Council to approve the purchasing decision, it will likely listen to the recommendations of the City Commissioners. With barely three days notice, the city commissioners announced two public comment sessions: one on Thursday, Jan. 10, at 6 p.m. and the other on Saturday, Jan. 12, at 9:30 a.m., both at 520 N. Columbus Blvd., 6th floor.

The commissioners certainly have years of expertise in running elections in Philadelphia, but the voters of Philadelphia have years of experience in participating in them. It should not be just the commissioners and the city’s Office of Innovation & Technology determining which voting system the city should purchase.

As a city that celebrates its diversity and inclusiveness, Philadelphia should be a leader in inclusiveness and accessibility with voting, empowering informed voters to participate effectively in our democracy.

The city commissioners, committee people and concerned citizens alike should work together to develop an educated decision process that includes public hearings with sufficient advance notice and off-line promotion, public demonstrations of the various systems, and feedback from the voters who will soon be using them.

The city commissioners and Philadelphia City Council must prioritize the public interest to protect citizens’ trust in the election process. As citizens, we have a role to play not only on election day but in calling on our elected officials today — both in the city commissioners office and in City Council — and asking them to be transparent about this critically important decision.

Voting issues in our city have national implications when it comes to Pennsylvania’s representation in the U.S. House and Senate. As a city, we must prioritize public input. It’s time for better elections in Philadelphia, starting with better machines.

-30-
LEAVE A COMMENT

From our Partners

Scribe explores oral history in ‘Power Politics’ series, funds emerging media makers

6 things we know about you

Adult learners need digital literacy, too

SPONSORED

Generocity Philly

Village of the Arts seeks to deepen and scale its impact as it reflects on its legacy

Philadelphia, Norristown, NJ

Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence

School-Based Program Coordinator, Mentor 2.0

Apply Now
Philadelphia, Norristown, NJ

Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence

School-Based Program Coordinator (College Bigs)

Apply Now
Philadelphia, Norristown, NJ

Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence

School-Based Program Coordinator (Beyond School Walls)

Apply Now

cinéSPEAK and the future of cinema in West Philly

Power moves: John Fisher-Klein becomes The Attic’s new executive director

On the market: 50 social impact jobs to get you going

SPONSORED

Generocity Philly

On June 17, First Person Arts and EMOC launch a virtual event they hope will shatter misperceptions of men of color

Philadelphia, Norristown, NJ

Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence

Team Leader, School-Based Mentoring Mentor 2.0

Apply Now
416 Queen St. Philadelphia, PA 19147

Settlement Music School

Head Start Family Services Provider

Apply Now
Philadelphia

Read by 4th

Special Projects Manager

Apply Now

Sign-up for daily news updates from Generocity