LORETTO – After moving quickly to comply with a state mandate issued last year regarding voting machines, Cambria County officials are hopeful that Pennsylvania legislators can work together to provide reimbursement for the purchase.
In May, Cambria County authorized an agreement with ES&S Voting Machine Systems for new voting machines, along with precinct tabulators, scanners and express marking devices, for about $1.3 million.
The equipment follows the state’s directive for voter-verifiable paper ballots or paper records of votes cast in an effort to enhance auditability and security.
Counties were directed to implement their new voting systems no later than the 2020 primary election. Cambria officials have opted to have the new machines in place in November to allow time for poll workers to be trained ahead of what’s expected to be a busy presidential election year.
At a commissioners’ meeting held Wednesday evening at Vale Wood Farms, Controller Ed Cernic Jr. said the county has made a down payment of $400,000 for the voting machines and the remaining balance has been set aside. Reserves and capital reserve funds covered the purchase.
“We had to find the cash to pay for it,” Cernic said. “We’re hoping that we’ll be reimbursed.”
State legislators have been circulating ideas of how to assist counties with the state-mandated purchase of new voting machines for months.
Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill that would issue $90 million to reimburse counties for their voting machine costs, but also eliminate straight-party voting as a single-button option on Pennsylvania ballots.
On Tuesday, Wolf announced the state would fund up to $90 million to reimburse counties for 60 percent of their cost to replace voting systems, with the Pennsylvania Department Economic Development Financing Authority issuing bonds and the Department of State making grants available.
A release from Wolf’s office says the Pennsylvania Department of State will offer counties that use older models of hand-marked paper ballot voting systems an opportunity to request an extension until June 2021 to select new voting equipment. However, counties that implement new voting systems ahead of the 2020 primary will receive their full share of all available federal and state funds.
“Pennsylvania counties are well on their way to replacing their voting systems and I applaud their tremendous commitment to protecting our elections,” Wolf’s release says. “I remain committed to supporting their efforts and this funding will help the counties to complete that process.”
Since approving the purchase of new voting machines and equipment, the county has prepared for potential reimbursement of their costs.
At the commissioners’ June 13 meeting, they approved the county’s application and agreement for Help America Vote Act (HAVA) grant funds through the Pennsylvania Department of State for $138,288.
During the commissioners’ last meeting on June 27, they approved a resolution declaring their intent to reimburse the county with proceeds of the issuance of municipal bonds to purchase new election machines and related equipment. County Solicitor Bill Barbin said that move will make Cambria County eligible for the proposal Wolf announced Tuesday.