Bucks County Board of Elections selects new voting machines

The elections board, composed of Bucks County’s three county commissioners, voted 2-1 in favor of Clear Ballot, a system using handmarked paper ballots

The Bucks County Board of Elections selected Clear Ballot to provide the county’s new voting machines and system.

The elections board, composed of Bucks County’s three county commissioners, voted 2-1 in favor of Clear Ballot, a system using handmarked paper ballots. It was one of five vendors that had been certified by Pennsylvania’s Department of State.

Commissioners Robert Loughery and Diane Marseglia voted in favor of Clear Ballot. Commissioner Charles Martin, who deemed ES&S XL as the best of the certified systems, voted no.

All three commissioners thanked Chief Clerk Deanna Giorno and a review team of county staffers for their research and reporting on the five options.

“There’s been a lot of work done on this, and we’ve all taken a tremendous amount of time over the past year looking at this,” Loughery said.

Clear Ballot is a voter-verified paper ballot system that uses ballots lacking bar codes or QR codes. Voters complete paper ballots by hand and feed them into a scanner, which drops the ballot into a ballot bag for transportation to the Board of Elections office in Doylestown at the end of Election Day.

The Clear Ballot scanners also scan an image of the completed ballots and tabulate results from each precinct for efficient election night reporting.

The Clear Ballot system also provides a ballot-marking device for each polling place for voters who require ADA provisions. The ballot-marking device prints a ballot identical to those provided to non-ADA voters at the polling place before it is fed into a scanner.

Ardith Talbott of Bucks County’s League of Women Voters said the League believed that, “Many electronic machines are vulnerable to technology that comes between the voter and the final count. We, like many cybersecurity experts across the nation, believe that the use of voter-handmarked paper ballots will provide the greatest security for our elections.”

Martin argued that ES&S had been chosen by 33 of the 54 counties that had selected new systems so far, and that the system had worked well in Philadelphia during the general election in November. He said that many voters at the county’s demonstrations had expressed a preference for ES&S, and that the machines most closely resembled the machines currently used by the county.

In April 2018, all Pennsylvania counties were informed by the state that they must select new voting systems that provide a verifiable paper record by the end of 2019, and that those new systems be in place no later than the 2020 primary.

Bucks County last replaced its voting machines in 2006, assisted by funding from the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002. The state has pledged to fund a substantial amount of the counties’ cost for the new systems, although the exact amount Bucks County will receive has not been determined.