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“Election integrity” group advocates for paper ballot system


Members of SAVE Bucks Votes, a nonprofit organization that has been advocating for new voting machines and “election integrity” for years in Bucks County, attended a recent meeting of the Bucks County Commissioners again urging them to select a paper ballot system to replace the current electronic one.

The organization prepared an extensive report for the commissioners, detailing its research on a variety of voting systems.

The hand-marked system is considered by experts to be the “gold standard” of voting systems, said Janis Hobbs-Pellechio, president of SAVE Bucks Votes, after the meeting. Bucks County is among a handful of counties that still has electronic touchscreen voting machines.

The state of Pennsylvania and the federal government have pledged funding to help counties buy voting machines that will provide an auditable, verifiable paper record of voting by the 2020 elections. Just how much money will be provided remains unclear.

SAVE Bucks Votes believes the commissioners have failed to fully investigate the types of voting systems available and, as a result, may be relying on the vendors for assessment. Additionally, the officials may not be aware of the advantages of a voter-hand-marked paper ballot system.

“We can only assume the worst,” said Hobbs-Pellechio in a written statement to the board, “that some of you are relying primarily on vendor marketing in your deliberations.”

However, Bucks Commissioner Diane Marseglia said in a phone interview that is not the case. The county, she stressed, is giving full consideration to the five approved systems. The commissioners, who also serve as the Board of Elections, cannot discuss any preference for a particular system, she said, as it would be “inappropriate.”

“The public needs to know that we have been doing our due diligence but we cannot make a commitment to any voting machine” until there’s a full review.

Regardless of which system is selected, Marseglia said, a bond issue will likely be needed to pay for the approximately $7 million price tag. Bucks County has more than 300 precincts and each will need two or three machines, the commissioner said.

“We will definitely have a new system in place,” for the 2020 election, Marseglia said.