Fraud Costly,but Politicalrhetoric Cheap
Even though they could not come up with a single case to prove their point, state legislative Republicans were so concerned about voter fraud prior to the 2012 presidential election that they railroaded to passage a draconian voter identification law that later was found to be unconstitutional. Now, despite intervening events including Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and continuing efforts by hostile foreign powers to hack into election systems, those same legislators balk at election security. In response to a federal mandate for secure election systems in time for the 2020 presidential election, the Wolf administration has required that all 67 counties acquire new voting machines by then that include state-of-the-art security software and produce paper trails. The total cost of the machines is projected to be $125 million, of which the federal government will cover only $14 million. Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed that the state government cover $75 million of the remaining $111 million by reimbursing the counties at the rate of $15 million a year for five years. That would leave the aggregate county-level bill at about $36 million. According to the state Department of State, which oversees state election law and policy, 80 percent of the voting machines in Pennsylvania do not provide paper ballots to check against electronic results. And the systems that provide paper trails, such as in Lackawanna County, are not compatible with state-of-the-art software security requirements. Concern fades as cost surfaces But, suddenly, election security is not a pressing concern for many Republican legislators. “We have a huge expense to our taxpayers; we have vendors who are using excessively high interest rate proposals; we have governments that don’t have a way to pay for these and we have no example, none, of a real legitimate issue,” declared state Sen. Bob Mensch, a Montgomery County Republican, during a recent hearing on the issue. It’s good to know that the Republicans’ supposed fear of fraud has been allayed. But election security is a valid issue, as is its cost. For the state government, $125 million is a manageable cost. It should assume the full cost of the project and spread it over several years. Fair and accurate elections are worth the investment.