Voting System Information
Q: Why did Dauphin County change voting systems?
A: The mandate to buy new voting systems came after the Wolf administration in 2018 settled a lawsuit filed by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein after the 2016 election. Stein sought a recount and alleged there were security concerns with Pennsylvania’s voting machines. Though she didn’t prove her claims in court, Wolf agreed to require the state’s 67 counties use voter-verifiable paper ballots by the 2020 election.
While the Commissioners argued that the county’s existing system was safe and hack-proof since it is not connected to the internet, the state refused to certify it and threatened to sue the county if it did not switch to a commonwealth-approved system.
The Commissioners selected Clear Ballot in December following a lengthy review of the available systems. As part of the review, the Commissioners held a voting machine expo in June where the public rated various systems. The Clear Ballot system purchased by the county was among the top three.
A: Under the contract the Commissioners have approved on Jan. 8, the county is paying Clear Ballot $2.3 million. The agreement includes delivery and setup of the new equipment, training, onsite support, public education and a warranty.
In addition to the new system, the county will incur costs for training, public education, paper supplies, leased scanners, staffing and more, bringing the total cost to about $5 - $6 million.
Q: Will the county receive state funds to cover the cost?
A: The state has said it will reimburse counties for up to 60 percent of the cost; however, it is not clear whether the state will pay for all aspects associated with new system, such as ballot printing, training and other components.
Q: When will voters use the new system?
A: The new system will be used in all of Dauphin County’s 159 precincts for the April 28, 2020 presidential primary.
Q: How does this system differ from the county’s current machines?
A: Voters will fill in paper ballots behind privacy screens and then enter the ballots into high-speed scanners. Precincts will have at least one scanner based upon the size of the precinct.
Q: What provisions are in place for people with disabilities?
A: Votes with disabilities will be able to use portable electronic ballot marking devices for easier access, or they can vote by mail. These devices produce a marked paper ballot, which the voter can enter into the scanner.
Q: Will there be training for the public on the new system before the April primary?
A: Yes. The county will hold various training sessions as well as make training videos provided by Clear Ballot available on the county’s website.
Q: How quickly will we know the election results?
A: Election results from votes cast in the precinct should be available within hours after the polls close. Each ballot scanner tallies the votes and stores them on chips, and also produces a paper printout and similar to county’s electronic machines. The tallies from the scanners will be posted on Dauphin County’s website just as in previous elections.
However, tallies from mail-in and absentee ballots will depend on the quantity received. Under Act 77 of 2019 signed by Gov. Wolf in October, voters can cast mail-in ballots up to 50 days before an election. These ballots cannot be counted until after the polls close. These ballots will be counted in the county election office and cross-checked to ensure people who voted by mail did not also vote in a precinct.
As part of the Clear Ballot contract, the county is purchasing large high-speed scanners to process the mail-in ballots.