After months of internal discussion and research, Bucks County has OK’d in time for the 2020 presidential election a new voting system designed to thwart hackers with hand-marked paper balloting.

So Russia, if you’re paying attention, the county is ready for you.

The long-anticipated decision Nov. 27 by the county Board of Elections and again Dec. 4 by the county commissioners – a month before a state deadline for selection of a voting system with paper tracking – means county voters in the spring Primary and fall General Election will cast votes on new machines. The new system produces a paper trail to track balloting in the voting booth.

“There’s been a lot of work done on this, and we’ve all taken a tremendous amount of time over the past year looking at this,” said Robert G. Loughery, commissioner and Election Board member.

Bucks County, who selected Clear Ballot, last changed its voting method in 2006. The Commonwealth will pay for much of the cost of the new machines, though an exact amount has not yet been determined.

Clear Ballot is a voter-verified paper ballot system that uses ballots lacking bar codes or QR codes. Voters complete paper ballots by hand and feed them into a scanner which drops the ballots into a ballot bag for transportation to the Board of Elections office in Doylestown at the close of Election Day. Clear Ballot scanners also produce an image of completed ballots and tabulate results from each precinct.

The new system also provides a ballot marking device for each polling place for voters who require ADA provisions. Selection of new voting systems and machines with a paper trail to track ballots was ordered statewide last February with a Dec. 31 deadline.

Bucks County’s selection comes months after Montgomery County officials awarded a $5.8 million contract to Dominion Voting Systems of Denver, Colo., to provide a voter-marked paper balloting system.

The new system will replace the current electronic push-button voting machines Montgomery County purchased in 1996.

“Voters will still be able to privately cast their ballot just like the current system, and the simple paper ballot will give them the highest confidence that their votes will be accurately recorded and counted,” said Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, county commissioner.

Votes “accurately recorded and counted” is a key element in democracy and something so vital it’s why hackers like Russia mess with it.

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