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CRITERIA NEEDED FOR ESTABLISHING THE NUMBER OF ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES ASSIGNED PER POLLING PLACE, INCLUDING PENNSYLVANIA STATE ELECTION CODE STATUTES REGARDING THE NUMBER OF ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES THAT A COUNTY SHOULD SUPPLY TO EACH POLLING PLACE IN TERMS OF THE NUMBER OF VOTERS THAT EACH MACHINE CAN ACCOMMODATE

 

In Pennsylvania there are two statutes in the Election Code, which provide two different criteria, in regard to the number of electronic voting machines that a county should supply to each polling place in terms of the number of voters that each electronic voting machine can accommodate.

 

1. The first one, 25 P.S. 3031.10(b), says that the County Board of Elections should follow the minimum capacity standards prescribed by the Secretary of the Commonwealth in its electronic certification report for each electronic voting machine.

 

Here is the text of 25 P.S. 3031.10(b):  “. . . The county board shall determine the number of voting devices and voting booths to be provided in each such district in order to satisfy the minimum capacity standards prescribed by the Secretary of the Commonwealth.” 

 

In the certification report for the electronic voting machine used in Bucks County, for example, Danaher 1242, the pertinent statement reads:  “Each 1242 unit can be expected to reasonably accommodate at least 350 voters.”

 

The Deputy Commissioner for the Bureau of Commissions, Elections, and Legislation in the Pennsylvania Department of State viewed this 350 voter number as the standard that should be followed in the November ’08 election.

 

2. The second statute, 25 P.S. 2730(b), says, “. . . The number of voting machines to be furnished to polling places in which voting machines are used shall be not more than one machine for each three hundred and fifty (350) registered electors, or fraction thereof, nor less than one machine for each six hundred (600) electors, or fraction thereof, in such election district: Provided, however, that the court of common pleas having jurisdiction, upon petition presented by either the county election board, or by ten (10) or more registered qualified electors of an election district, may order that additional voting machines or voting compartments be provided for such election district if the court shall be of the opinion  that such additional voting machines  or voting compartments shall be necessary in such district for the convenience of the electors and the public interests.  The county shall provide equal distribution of voting machines or voting compartments in election districts containing a similar number of electors.” 

 

Here the number is not less than one machine for each 600 voters.

 

However, the County or 10 citizens can petition the Court of Common Pleas to order additional voting machines. 

 

Bucks County does not use either election statute in determining how many electronic voting machines they will supply to a precinct.  In the November ’08 election some precincts exceeded even the maximum number of 600 voters per machine. The Bucks County Board of Elections follows their own criteria to decide how many machines are needed.  The Election Director considers the following factors:  the number of voters who voted in each precinct in the last similar-type election, primary or general, municipal or presidential election, and  the number of registered voters who are labeled “inactive” because they have not voted in the last two elections.  This reduces the number of machines needed, and the subsequent cost of buying or renting enough machines to meet the State’s standard.

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However, not meeting State Election Code criteria can result in the disenfranchisement of voters in high-turnout presidential elections in large polling places when there are not enough machines.  This occurred in Bucks County in the November ’08 presidential election in some polling places at certain times of the day.   In a survey of Judges of Election after that election, only 6 percent of the Judges said that they did not have long lines at any times of the day.  Voters who have job or family responsibilities or health problems may not be able to wait hours on a line to vote and they are disenfranchised.  Wait times on line should be a criterion in assigning machines.

 

Democracy is founded on the belief that our elected leaders should be the choice of all qualified voters. To disenfranchise a voter who is not able to wait more than a reasonable amount of time to vote, say half an hour, is undemocratic.  A county needs to supply enough machines to each polling place to meet the needs of all its voters, or it has not fulfilled its duty in a democracy.

 

Related:

 

Pennsylvania Election Code

 

25 P.S. (Pennsylvania Statute) 3031.10

 

25 P.S. 2730

 

FAQs re Pennsylvania Code