January 2018 - September 2019
If you're not familiar with our original issue to get a voter-verified paper ballot system, you may want to read about our problem, the solution, and other important information on this website.
Developments described in the timeline below will explain why we need to concentrate on the following new approaches to get the most secure, accurate, verifiable voting system Bucks County citizens deserve:
Our job is not done just because our commissioners are now required to pick a new paper system before the end of 2019.
Our revised approaches are to make sure that
Every precinct gets a paper ballot voting system which allows both voter hand-marked ballots and one accessible ballot marker device for the disabled, plus one optical scanner. New voting systems that promote the use of ballot marking devices for ALL voters to use are not acceptable by a consensus of cybersecurity and election integrity experts. Learn more here.
Robust post-election audits will be conducted prior to certification of election results.
The commissioners and election officials are reminded of the urgency of getting these systems in place as early in 2019 as possible.
State and federal legislators and our governor are made aware counties need help with funding. UPDATE: Gov. Wolf has pledged to work with the legislature to come up with funding for half of the costs for new voting systems.
A recent timeline of developments explains where we are now. (Info about most of our 2018 efforts to get a new paper ballot voting system can be found further below).
Bucks County has its first Voting System Expo in Doylestown for citizens and election officials to see and hear about the new systems that will be available. We attend to make sure attendees get our information to counter that given only by the vendors, which can be incomplete at best, and misleading or outright false at worst. In the article about the event, we add our red corrections to some points in it.
It is disturbing to see the ballot-marking devices (BMDs) being so aggressively hawked by most vendors as necessary for all voters to vote on. Citizens and election officials unaware of the unnecessary security vulnerabilities and the problems most voters have in verifying BMD ballots prior to casting are unwittingly seduced by the vendors' marketing ploys.
ES&S's ExpressVote and ExpressVote XL are particularly troublesome. They are called “all-in-one” hybrids because they combine two tasks which are more often performed by two separate devices: marking a paper ballot and tabulating votes from a paper ballot with a built-in scanner. The XL is being pushed as the best replacement for jurisdictions like ours because of its physical similarity to the Danaher machine. Never mind that it has every BMD security and verifiability concern possible (plus some unique ones all its own), it's also by far the most expensive BMD on the market.
This scathing New Yorker article, "How Voting-Machine Lobbyists Undermine the Democratic Process" goes a long way to explaining the very troubling trend we are witnessing.
Our requested January meeting with the commissioners to discuss the voting systems in more detail was postponed, but Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia says we were welcome to send them information if we wanted prior to a future meeting. We drop off paper copies of comprehensive voting system reports for each of them on Friday, February 8, to be followed up by email versions for easy access to linked information.
Commissioner Ellis-Marseglia contacts me within days, confirming that she’d read the entire packet of information and whole-heartedly supports our conclusion that a hand-marked paper ballot system is the best one for Bucks County! She asks some good questions right away, we give her answers, and the door remains open for good dialogue and working with her.
We have not heard anything yet from Commissioners Loughery or Martin. For us, the decision is an obvious no-brainer (more secure, verifiably accurate, and—you’d think they’d love this—is the most economical and easy by far). We hope they will also see the many advantages right away, too. But barring that, it’s important for all of us to keep our message out there so that the right decision is made when the time comes.
It's been awhile since we had anything to report about our voting system issue, mostly because we had not been able to get any new information about where the commissioners are in the choosing process. We heard nothing from Comissioners Loughery or Martin, although on March 1, there were quotes found in a Philadelphia Inquirer article (not a peep in any of our local papers, though!).
Under a state threat to upgrade voting machines by the end of the year or risk not having their votes counted in 2020, Pennsylvania counties are scrambling to buy new systems — and some of them aren’t happy about it.
“This doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Charlie Martin, a Bucks County commissioner.
“If I had my druthers, we’d be waiting until the useful life of these machines are up and then replacing them,” said Robert Loughery, chair of the Bucks County commissioners, “but there’s obviously other pressures out there that are pushing this to happen sooner rather than later.”
Bucks County has the money to cover the cost of new machines, Loughery said: “Is it something that we really want to spend money on this year? Probably not, but it’s something that’s important and we’ll have to do it.”
For other counties, questions remain. Some are tentatively moving forward and exploring ways to pay; others are waiting to see whether anything changes. Ultimately, officials said, they’ll have to comply. Even if unhappily.
“We’ll move forward,” said Martin, the Bucks commissioner. “But we’re not going to be the first ones to get it done.”
The target date listed for Bucks is April 2020.
We have another Guest Opinion printed in the Intelligencer, trying to clarify points we see reporters and other articles getting wrong or ill-explained. We want the public, election workers and officials (and commissioners) to have the right facts and to realize how important this issue is!
June 17, 2019
After many months of questions, research, debate, and deliberation, the League of Women Voters of Bucks County adopts its position for supporting voter-hand-marked paper ballots and risk-limiting audits to verify our election results. LWV officials meet with our commissioners to convey their advice and their guest opinion is printed in our local Intelligencer and Courier Times.
Bucks County Commissioner candidates for our Fall 2019 election respond to the LWV question concerning new voting systems. They all seem to support our position, at least in general terms.
Commissioner Rob Loughery's answer has, in our view, good points (more public voting forums promised) and a commitment to "purchase and secure new voting machines and related equipment that will meet... the highest standards of security, auditability and accessibility". Our concern is he then says "... we will make a choice between equipment that either uses paper ballots or prints a paper record so voters can verify their vote" (my underline). If he is considering using ballot-marking devices for ALL voters, those high standards he refers to cannot be fulfilled.
Another Voting System demonstration expo is held in Doylestown. Notices are sent to pollworkers the week before, with public notification published in newpapers only a few days before the event.
County officials are requesting attendees fill out surveys before they leave, which are asking opinions about how easy a voting system seems, whether they like the system, and other inconsequential factors that have nothing to do with how secure, accurate or verifiable it is. The commissioners did the same thing 14 years ago when they chose our current machines. Everyone there must be made aware of what experts believe and recommend and not just have the vendors' marketing to judge the new systems!
Commissioner Martin, while at the ES&S demonstration of their ExpressVote XL, is heard to be seemingly quite impressed and enthusiastic about it.
Note added later: One question on survey was "How would you rank your level of security in this system?" Anyone listening to vendors only and with no access to what cybersecurity experts say about a system will be hard-pressed to give a knowledgeable answer. We try to educate as many attendees as we can with our handouts and conversations!
June 26, 2019
We contact Comm. Diane Ellis-Marseglia to try to get our promised (since December) private meeting with commissioners so we are confident they are not relying primarily on vendor information and understand what experts recommend. Time is running out, they surely are deliberating about the systems already and a decision will be made in the fall.
I don't get answer about a meeting but she does want answers to some more good questions, many prompted by concerns about how Montgomery County's primary went. Emailed questions and answers are exchanged for the next few weeks until her last questions are answered in early August.
I hope she is understanding some of my long explanations because a few of her questions are repeated a few times and a couple of vendor talking points are showing up in her concerns that need clear answers. This is another reason an in-person meeting would be much easier to clear matters up.
July 16, July 24
Two more requests by us for a meeting. Comm. Ellis-Marseglia says we can meet after the last voting system demo on August 19 is held. She also says no final decision will be made until November after the election.
July 17, 2019
200 citizens from groups all around Pennsylvania file a petition with the PA Department of State to re-examine and potentially decertify the ES&S ExpressVote XL. Read all about this news here.
August 5, 2019
We are now informed that we won't meet with commissioners until after the election in November (when the commissioners can officially make the decision).
The whole point of meeting with them is so we're confident they're taking into account and understand expert advice about all of the voting systems while deliberating, which they should be doing right now (hopefully before now). Are they actually saying they still won't have a pretty good idea of what they're going to decide until a week-long period in November between meeting with us and announcing a decision?
Meeting with us that late negates the main reason we formed SAVE Bucks Votes. We have worked extremely hard to avoid a repeat of the terrible decision made 13 years ago, when expert information was ignored and our current unverifiable, insecure system was chosen.
August 19, 2019
Our only recourse for any kind of meeting soon is to show up at the Bucks County Commissioner public meeting and present as much of our information as possible to them. We prepare an updated Voting System Report (will post contents here soon) for each commissioner.
Janis Hobbs-Pellechio, president of SAVE Bucks Votes, gives the first remarks during public comments. Madeline Rawley, a co-founder, quotes from a letter penned by 24 experts and article by another cybersecurity expert. Comm. Loughery says anyone not talking about the voting system topic may continue, although Barbara Sperry from the League of Women Voters was allowed to speak in support of our cause. Other supporters felt discouraged by Comm. Loughery from saying any more.
January 30, 2018:
Members of SAVE Bucks Votes and Citizens for Better Elections from Montgomery County attend a public hearing of a PA Senate-commissioned report on voting technology (see our synopsis bottom of page here). We are stunned by how little legislators seem to grasp the problem during the hearing. We meet with a dozen members or staff to educate them and make plans to return as often as necessary to make our issue clearly understood and to ignite a sense of urgency about addressing it.
SAVE Bucks Votes sends out ACTION ALERT to our followers to contact Governor Wolf immediately to add funding for new voting systems in his upcoming Preliminary Budget.
Gov. Wolf presents his budget proposal with no mention of our requested funding. It was a long shot, but your overwhelming responses to the ALERT may have had an effect because only a few days later...
The Wolf administration/PA Dept. of State issues a directive that all commonwealth voting systems purchased from February 9, 2018, forward must employ a voter-verifiable paper ballot or paper record of votes cast. While a step in the right direction, it doesn't address a timeline for replacing the old, insecure voting systems all across the state.
Montgomery County commissioners plan to replace their old DRE systems and will soon host a public showing of new paper-based systems that will be available. We request a meeting with Bucks County commissioners and also let them know about that upcoming public showing.
We attend the public voting system expo, are able to get more important information about 5 potential systems by seeing and experiencing in person. Commissioners are unable to come, we have been told they are too busy to schedule a meeting with us yet.
We make more trips to Harrisburg with our invaluable colleagues from Citizens for Better Elections. Making progress with legislators and getting advice on funding and how to move our issue forward in Harrisburg.
After repeated requests for a private meeting with our commissioners to see where they are on the issue, we decide it's time to speak with them publicly instead. Our terrific supporters answer our ACTION ALERT by showing up in big numbers at the first April commissioner meeting.
We present the facts about the insecurity of our current DRE system, the need for a voter-marked, paper ballot system, and their need to realize the urgency of the situation. Headline article in the Intelligencer/Bucks Courier Times gives a good account of the day.
Commissioners are urged to get new system in time for November 2018 election. Unbeknownst to us during this meeting, the PA DoS has just decertified the only paper ballot system available. Two commissioners express skepticism about whole issue, all three say there is no funding for it. They suggest we attend the next Board of Elections meeting next week.
Board of Elections meeting: In response to Comm. Charlie Martin's query as to how electronic voting machines can be hacked without any internet connection, we show this short video. He and Comm. Loughery remain unconvinced, stating that it wasn't our Danaher machine in video so doesn't apply. Comm. Loughery assures us that our current elections are secure and safe and we shouldn't be claiming otherwise.
This is the stance that many election officials take, even though saying it over and over does not make it true. One reason given is they don't want to make voters afraid their vote won't count so they don't vote and they'll be disenfranchised. Our position has never been to discourage citizens from voting--your vote really won't count if you don't vote! But by voting on a VMPB system that is provably secure and accurate, citizens will regain confidence in our election results--no "faith-based" voting required!
We ask if there would be any consideration of using the county funds to buy new systems, especially in anticipation of eventually getting state and/or federal funding to help; it is a firm NO.
Wolf administration/PA Dept. of State issues a more detailed directive that counties must have new voter-verified, paper systems in place by the end of 2019. Pennsylvania receives about $14 million federal funds, but it's only a fraction of the $91-120 million that is needed to replace all of its old voting systems. More state and federal funding is needed.
Press release from the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) about the directive is here.
We attend another voting system exhibition in Harrisburg, sponsored by the PA Dept. of State for legislators and the public to view. We are surprised to see some voting components being shown that cannot be certified in PA, but are happy we have more time to examine and ask more detailed questions. Information and our reviews about all the voting systems on Solution page.
Also, front page headline article in the Intelligencer/Bucks Courier Times is published, "Expert: Pa. would fail on voting machine security," news that readers and followers of this site and our Facebook page already knew!
May - July:
We continue our trips to Harrisburg to meet with legislators, Dept. of State officials and attend hearings about getting state funding. Even with positive receptions for our message, especially from every PA state representative from Bucks County, new voting systems aren't included in final state budget.
Sept 11 - 13
Some SBV members attend most of Lehigh County's three-day, in-depth voting system expo which is aimed primarily at election officials. We have chances to interact with some other counties' officials and give them science-based information to counteract biased vendor talking points.
Spend more time on general get-out-the-vote efforts as individuals and work on plans to ramp up our get-our-new-verifiable-voting-system efforts immediately after the November midterm election.
Bucks County commissioners release their 2019 Preliminary Budget which has nothing allocated for a new voting system. We attend the public budget hearing and are told that what we want would be considered a capital expense, not in the regular budget. We remind them there are many ways to finance and work out deals with vendors. Bucks County already has about $750,000 federal funding for system available (see April 12 above), and more will be coming in future.
A lawsuit by Jill Stein against the PA Dept. of State is settled. It now legally requires all counties to have verified paper ballot systems in place by the 2020 primary, and to have mandatory robust audits conducted prior to every election's certification by 2022. The state tells counties it will cover about half of the costs of system replacements.
Two members of Save Bucks Votes are invited to attend the Penn State Symposium on Election Security. Speakers represent the top tier of cybersecurity and election integrity experts and it is an extremely informative event. We are able to meet and question many who have authored articles and research that we've studied and recommended over the years!