Clearfield County Commissioners had disappointing news about hoped-for funding to assist the county in purchasing new voting machines.
Although the board was hopeful at last week’s meeting that the state would pass legislation providing $90 million to help the commonwealth’s counties meet mandates imposed following the 2016 election to replace machines that don’t provide a paper ballot by 2019 — Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed the measure.
Commissioner John Sobel said it was his understanding Gov. Wolf did not support the bill’s provisions that eliminated straight party voting.
“Now counties are back to square one,” he said. The proposed legislation would have provided funding to pay up to 50 percent of the cost of the new machines. Clearfield County estimated cost for new voting machines is as much as $1 million.
While the federal government has provided $13.5 million toward the requirement, the amount is not enough to meet the estimate of $150 million to replace voting machines throughout the state, the commissioners said.
“Clearfield County is now in the position where it is dealing with a tight budget in a brand new situation. We don’t know if we will get the 50 percent funding we were promised. This is not a good position for Clearfield County to be in,” Sobel said.
Commissioner Mark McCracken agreed. “This is going to put a lot of counties in a bind,” he said.
He said the county wrote a letter a number of months ago to acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar and copied local state Sens. Joe Scarnati and Wayne Langerholc Jr. and local state Reps. Matt Gabler and Tommy Sankey, advising Clearfield would not be selecting a voting machine vendor until funding was appropriated to pay for a minimum of 50 percent of the cost to replace the machines. He said perhaps a second letter should be sent reiterating the position.
“I feel it is only fair Harrisburg come up with half the cost,” he said. He reported he also believes legislators are mostly done working for the year and it could be 2020 before counties get any firm answers about funding to replace voting machines.
Sobel added, “In a few months, Clearfield County will be dealing with preparations for the 2020 budget. On behalf of Clearfield County we encourage the Governor and the legislature to begin communicating and working on the problem.”