VotePA Spearheads Letter to Rendell

Many PA counties simply will not be ready with new voting machines and trained workers by our primary election on May 16. The following letter will be sent to Governor Ed Rendell later this week, urging him to do all in his power to negotiate a delay in the HAVA deadline for our state. Please contact VotePA if you would like to add your organization to the list of co-signers.


March 27, 2006

Dear Governor Rendell:

The undersigned organizations are writing to urge you to contact the United States Department of Justice to request that our state be given until the November 2006 federal election to comply with Section 102 of the Help America Vote Act.

The official deadline of our May primary election is unreasonable and unworkable for Pennsylvania. Due to the late formation of the Election Assistance Commission, and back-ups in the Independent Testing Authority process of testing machines to the 2002 federal standards, as of now several voting systems were still awaiting their first certification examination by our Pennsylvania Department of State in late March.

There is no conceivable way that systems still being tested in late March can be delivered to the counties and reliably be up and running by May 16, especially when you consider both the logistics of delivery and all the training required to prepare county and precinct election officials. Things will be vastly different and more complex than the machines these people have used for decades and the local and county workers need to be properly prepared. Without time for counties to choose their machines carefully and train workers thoroughly, we could be heading for an electoral disaster.

Nonetheless, the federal Department of Justice has threatened to sue Pennsylvania in an attempt to force hasty compliance. The resulting confusion and fear is forcing these counties to make hasty and in many cases unwise decisions as to what voting system to purchase, a decision that will determine how our votes will be counted for years to come. Many counties in Pennsylvania are rushing to grab just about any voting system that appears to be legal, simply to comply with the HAVA law, instead of taking time to make a deliberate and carefully researched decision. Counties are operating under fear of losing the funding HAVA provides toward the new systems and under fear of being sued or even taken over by the Department of Justice.

In the meantime, further confusion reigns because in addition to meeting the impossible deadline, counties are trying to provide accessible machines for disabled voters but with no real federal or state guidance, guidelines, or standards as to what constitutes acceptable accessibility under HAVA. Although no system will accommodate every disability, the EAC has indicated that merely having an audio ballot for visually handicapped voters is not adequate to be HAVA compliant. But indeed, many counties are buying machines with extremely limited disability access features which are also in some cases virtually untested. This in turn will serve to disenfranchise many voters who might have had a chance to vote independently if a slightly different course was taken. Lawsuits and more confusion probably lie ahead as citizens with disabilities come to the realization that new voting machines do not accommodate their needs.

Finally, as the May 16 Primary draws nearer vendors are becoming more and more recalcitrant and unwilling to negotiate fair, equitable contracts with counties. It is now a seller's market, in a very big way.

To put it succinctly, many of Pennsylvania's counties simply need more time to choose their voting system wisely, and to train and prepare properly to make the switch. We need to aim for a November rollout of these new machines.

We are asking you, our Governor, to take the lead in calling for common sense here and to ask for more time for our state to comply with the deadline.

As Governor, your voice is a powerful one. You have taken a strong stance to protect the rights of Pennsylvania voters by vetoing HB 1318. We call on you to further protect our vote by requesting that the Department of Justice allow Pennsylvania counties until November to comply with HAVA, and by doing everything else you can to obtain maximum time and assistance for counties as they move forward to obtain new voting systems.


Statewide alliance of groups and individuals committed to Voting Rights and Election Integrity

Co-signed by:
The Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP)
Butler County Democrats for Change (D-PAC)
Centre County Coalition of Concerned Voters
Common Cause/PA
Democracy for Pittsburgh
Election Reform Network (Montgomery County)
Erie C.A.L.L.
Mercer County Citizens for Better Government
National Election Archive Project/
Pennsylvania Council of Churches
Roots of Promise/Thomas Merton Center