Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, on Oct. 31 signed Act 77 of 2019, a wide-ranging election reform bill that directs significant new spending to improve election security. The legislation will take effect prior to the state’s April 2020 primary election.
The legislation includes a $90 million bond to assist counties in purchasing new voting systems that include “paper trails” to shore up election cybersecurity. That funding responds to an April 2018 directive mandating counties to select and implement new voting systems by the end of 2019.
After securing the bond, the state government will be able to reimburse counties for 60 percent of their actual costs to replace voting systems. “The new systems have enhanced security to help guard against hacking and produce an anonymous paper record so voters can verify their ballot is correctly marked when casting it,” Wolf’s office noted. “Paper records also allow officials to conduct the most accurate recounts and audits of election results.”
Wolf praised the legislation, saying, “This bill makes voting more convenient and more secure for millions of Pennsylvanians and continues my commitment to modernizing our elections. This is the biggest change to our elections in generations and will strengthen our democracy by removing barriers to the voting booth and encouraging more people to vote.”
The legislation received praise from civil rights advocacy groups.
“Voters in Pennsylvania won for this election and elections to come,” said Micah Sims, executive director for the nonprofit Common Cause Pennsylvania. “This package provides the infrastructure of new voting machines to produce secure elections and now we have some good reforms that will create greater engagement and participation.”
Wolf’s office noted that the bill will not impact the Nov. 5, 2019 election.