Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar congratulated county officials on the great progress made in the transition to new voting systems and updated them on the funding available and election reforms being implemented under newly passed Act 77, in an address today at the annual County Commissioners Association of PA (CCAP) fall conference in Hershey.
"We have seen exciting, historic changes take place this year in Pennsylvania with respect to new voting systems and the new election law," Secretary Boockvar said. "The Department of State is committed to working with CCAP and all 67 counties in Pennsylvania to ensure that these updates to the ways we vote – from new machines to mail-in ballots to extended registration deadlines – are implemented smoothly so that voters can be confident in both the process and the results when they cast their ballots in 2020 and beyond."
Boockvar shared with the county commissioners the collaborative work of the Act 77 Workgroup, which includes representatives from CCAP, county commissioners, county election directors, and Department of State staff. Planning and working together with the election officials who are responsible for delivering these reforms to voters will ensure smooth, thoughtful implementation of the changes in Act 77. Boockvar also informed the commissioners about the additional resources and support that the department will be directing toward these efforts.
Boockvar gave the county commissioners more details about a timely issue: the funding available through Act 77 for new voting machines, which counties are required to select by December 31, 2019. The new voting systems provide a paper record that voters will verify before casting their ballots. These new systems must be implemented no later than the 2020 primary.
Act 77, signed into law by Governor Wolf on October 31, allocates $90 million to reimburse counties for up to 60 percent of their allowable costs for new voting systems. These funds are in addition to $14.15 million in federal funding and a state match that Gov. Wolf set aside in 2018 for distribution to counties for new voting systems. So far, at least 53 counties, or 79 percent, have taken official action toward selecting a new voting system, and 45 counties used their new voting systems in the general election earlier this month.
Secretary Boockvar also discussed how Act 77 will make voting easier and more accessible to millions of Pennsylvanians. The new law authorizes 15 additional days for Pennsylvanians to register to vote; no-excuse mail-in voting; permanent mail-in and absentee voting lists; and extended voting time with ballots due by 8 p.m. on Election Day, among other updates.
"Over the past 18 months, county election officials and their teams have been incredibly dedicated and diligent in choosing the best voting systems for their voters. They are now working closely with us to ensure Act 77 is implemented effectively," Secretary Boockvar said. "The Department of State is committed to working together with CCAP and the counties and is dedicating significant resources to supporting them and to public education, to ensure the smooth implementation of these reforms for 2020."
Secretary Boockvar also discussed the many election security resources and tools available to counties at no cost to them. For example, the state offers comprehensive phishing and social engineering email exercises to provide testing and security awareness training for all county employees. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) offers a range of cybersecurity services that evaluate and advise on operational resilience and cybersecurity practices without cost to state and local election jurisdictions.
Secretary Boockvar also gave an overview of Pennsylvania's first risk-limiting post-election pilot audits, which took place in Mercer County and Philadelphia last week. She praised the counties for their leadership on this cutting-edge security measure to confirm the accuracy of election outcomes.
"The Department of State takes election security very seriously because any attempts to attack free, fair elections undermine our democracy," Secretary Boockvar said. "By taking advantage of the many no-cost election security resources available to counties, and advancing tools such as risk-limiting audits, we will boost voters' confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, so that they know their vote will count and be counted accurately."
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