Lawmakers, Wolf must compromise on voting machines

State lawmakers recently passed a separate measure amid their budget votes that designates $90 million to pay for counties instituting new voting machines that have an auditable paper trail ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Given the state’s history of unfunded mandates inflicted on counties and municipalities, this seemed like the responsible thing to do. The money would have paid most of the $100 million tab for the counties to make the voting machine change. And that’s as it should be.

We say “would have” because Gov Tom Wolf vetoed the bill, citing other voting changes attached to the bill that he opposes.

So much for logic.

The substitute he offered this past week — a bond issue floated through the Pennsylvania Economic Financing Authority — is flimsy and legally questionable. The bond would only pay for 60 percent of the costs of the counties. And local lawmakers question whether Wolf even has the authority to designate a bond for the costs.

Gov. Wolf particularly disapproved of a Republican provision that would eliminate the straight-party ticket voting on ballots.

Frankly, we wish that provision was not there in the first place. It encourages robotic voting by both Republicans and Democrats based on political parties rather than candidates in an age when more and more voters are basing their ballot decisions on individuals rather than their party affiliation.

Unfortunately, the bill did not pass with a veto-proof majority, so lawmakers may need to give in to Wolf’s wishes, as weak as they are. The alternative is $100 million in expenses to counties, which should not have to pay for this mandate.

And the move to replace voting machines to assure a vote counting process with a guaranteed, documented auditing path is necessary. We don’t need Pennsylvania to be the only swing state in the 2020 presidential election without a voter-verifiable paper trail on ballots. That’s especially alarming given the possibility that Pennsylvania’s vote could determine the winner of the next presidential election.

Going without the voter machine changes is a recipe to repeat the national embarrassment Florida has endured twice in this century.

But the counties should not be the ones paying those costs.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers as well as Gov. Wolf should understand that. They need to drop the political pettiness, strike a compromise and pass legislation — not a flimsy bond issue — to pay the voting machine costs of the counties.

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