Price Of Hacked Election Isincalculable

December 10, 2018 GMT

Pennsylvania was one of the state’s targeted by Russian hackers who tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And even now, 80 percent of the state’s voters cast their ballots on electronic devices that do not provide a separate paper trail to validate the vote if machines are hacked. It is obvious on its face, then, that Pennsylvania needs to update its voting systems to ensure that they are secure, accurate and verifiable. The state Department of State, which oversees elections that are conducted by 67 separate counties, has ordered all of those counties to obtain new voting systems, backed up by paper ballots, for use in the 2020 general election. Some counties, including Lackawanna, use systems that include paper trails. But those systems also must be replaced to meet current security standards. Yet the Senate majority whip, Republican John Gordner of Columbia County, plans to introduce legislation invalidating the order unless it is approved by the Legislature. Gordner says that county commissioners in his district have complained about the cost of the mandate, which the commissioners’ association has estimated at $125 million statewide. This mandate, however, is far from arbitrary. In August, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen called on Pennsylvania and a dozen other states that use mostly electronic machines to replace them with machines that provide a paper trail. And in November, the Wolf administration pledged to order the replacement as part of the settlement of a federal lawsuit that had been filed in Philadelphia by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and a group of voters. They contended that the lack of secure machines in Pennsylvania violated federal and state constitutional rights to ensure that their votes count. U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond rejected the Wolf administration’ move to dismiss the suit. And he has retained jurisdiction in the case to enforce the settlement. Beyond that, this is a case of cost vs. value. Voting machines carry a price but the cost of a hacked election to representative democracy is incalculable. Rather than opposing the mandate for secure and accurate voting systems, legislators should embrace the governor’s pledge for the state government to cover half of the cost.