County Commissioners approve USB backup drives for new voting machines

4 min readPosted August 3, 2019

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Lebanon County Commissioners approved a request earlier this week by the county’s Director of Elections, Michael Anderson, to purchase 72 USB “thumb drives” as extra security for the scanning devices in the new voting machines to be used during the next election.

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Thumb drives are devices that can upload and download information from a computer.

In July, the county received 100 Express Vote ballot marking devices and 72 DS 200 scanner/tabulators along with election management systems that had been purchased earlier in the year from Election Systems & Software.

Total purchase price was $704,932, Anderson said.

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Read Our Previous Election Systems Coverage…
Lebanon County meets state deadline to select new voting system (February 12)

New polling places for May 21 primary, last election before new voting machines (May 6)

Regardless of state funding, Lebanon County’s new voting machines will be ready for November (July 11)

The first use of these new voting machines will be the elections of Nov. 5, 2019.

In 2018, Governor Tom Wolf issued a directive regarding changes to Pennsylvania’s voting system, Anderson said in an email.

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A 2018 statement from the Pennsylvania Department of State, sent by Anderson, explained reasons for the voting machine upgrades, which are powered by cybersecurity concerns.

“Over the last year, experts across the country have issued strong warnings about the risks and vulnerabilities we face from both cyber threats and aging systems…and are urging states to take action,” the bulletin read.

Current voting systems are reaching the end of their usable life, the statement said, since they’ve been built on operating systems that are either no longer supported or soon will not be supported by the manufacturer.

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Working with the US Election Assistance Commission, PA’s Department of State has been evaluating county voting systems and certifying those that meet state and federal standards.

By purchasing the new voting machines, the commissioners are making sure Lebanon County makes the grade.

The USB thumb drives that were requested are to be a backup system in case something happens to the main USB thumb drive and the paper ballots, Anderson said.

Price for each thumb drive is $105, making the total bill $7,580.

The money for the devices will be taken from the Capital Fund. “It’s a secondary backup on election day,” said County Controller Jamie Wolgemuth.

The thumb drives stay in the voting machines and election workers bring the voting systems back to the municipal building to download the tabulations.

Should anything happen in transit to the courthouse, the secondary thumb drives should protect the voting information.

Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz asked if less expensive thumb drives could be purchased or if these particular devices were needed for the voting machines.

Wolgemuth said the drives were proprietary, specialized to work only in the voting machines.

The commissioners also asked if the thumb drives could divulge information if they were removed and plugged into an individual’s computer.

The answer to that question was also ‘no,’ Wolgemuth said.

Commissioner Bob Phillips asked if using paper ballots would be enough of a backup if a problem occurred.

“That is part of the reason we have the paper ballots,” Phillips said.

The new voting machines were on display at the recent Lebanon Area Fair at the Expo Center, where visitors could learn how to use them.

In the future, Anderson will be conducting educational events at various venues to show folks how to use the machines.

This week, Anderson is at training sessions learning how to program the voting machines.

“We might be the only county in the state to give voters a choice,” Litz said. “They can either vote by using the machines or can write on paper. It’s the best of both worlds because using the machines will conserve paper, because until now, paper that didn’t get used was thrown away.”

In other business, organizers of a recent Lebanon County fundraising bike ride came to thank the commissioners for a grant they received to advertise the ride, as well as update the officials on the event.

Nicole Maurer of the Community Health Council, Laurie Crawford of the Lebanon Valley Conservancy, and Ron Birch of the Lebanon Valley Bicycle Coalition expressed appreciation for a $10,000 grant they received via the hotel tax, from the county commissioners.

The money was used primarily to advertise the “Tour de Lebanon Valley,” which attracted 360 cyclists, with more than half coming from outside the county.

Read More: Nearly 400 cyclists rode in the Tour de Lebanon Valley

“It was a day of scenic bike rides through the Lebanon Valley,” Maurer said.

“In terms of a tourism event, the ride was very successful.”

Promotional funding was spent on radio ads, website news sites, billboards, press releases, and posters.

Riders paid to participate and $18,000 was raised, Maurer said.

A portion of the proceeds will go to the county’s land preservation program, Crawford said.

The next county tourism fundraiser will be the second annual “Tower To Town” event, a 10-mile run on Sunday, October 6, starting at Gov. Dick in Mt. Gretna and ending at Lebanon city. The race will be held to raise money for the John E. Wengert Memorial Park.

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Full Disclosure: The campaigns of Bill Ames and Bob Phillips have been advertisers on LebTown. LebTown does not make editorial decisions based on advertising relationships and advertisers do not receive special editorial treatment. Learn more about advertising with LebTown here.

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