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Make sure all parts of Pennsylvania are treated equally

In a courtroom Tuesday, a hearing unfolded that was to determine whether specific voting machines in Philadelphia and Northampton County are compliant with the agreement that every voter in the Keystone State use a tried-but-true method — paper ballots.

It’s almost refreshing in a world constantly consumed by the latest technology where everything is computer-based that one of society’s most important tasks is left to a method that has been around as long as voting itself.

No matter what high-tech system people have developed for just about anything, hackers have found a way to exploit weaknesses and cause at least potential compromise — something no election can afford to have. Also, technology can be needlessly complicated, which can also be a huge issue in and of itself. Look no further than the Iowa caucuses for proof of that.

Paper, however, has one very distinct advantage — it is hack-proof. That’s why a recent settlement from a lawsuit stemming from the 2016 presidential election mandates every Pennsylvania voter must cast a “voter-verifiable paper ballot.”

The administration of Gov. Tom Wolf has been arguing that new machines in Philadelphia (which is heavily Democratic) and Northampton County (which is majority Democratic) that utilize touch screens are somehow in compliance with that agreement.

These machines use “cards” that are displayed behind a plastic screen where voters can confirm their selections before the vote is counted. The cards have a bar code that is scanned, but they bear little resemblance to the ballot and can sometimes prove confusing and even difficult to read. The Wolf administration is arguing that card is enough to be considered a “paper ballot” as required.

This is after forcing areas like Mifflin and Juniata counties (which are heavily Republican) that already had a paper ballot system in place to purchase new voting machines in the name of election integrity.

To borrow a phrase from Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, that’s “a bunch of malarkey.”

Last we checked, Philadelphia has been part of Pennsylvania just about as long as there’s been a Pennsylvania.

Why should that area receive an exemption for clearly-noncompliant machines when the machines our region had that already used paper ballots did not?

We suspect this is an strategy to get as many reliably-blue voters to the polls in November as possible in an effort to deny Donald Trump Pennsylvania’s electoral votes. You may remember it was Trump’s victory here that put him over the magic number of 270 in 2016 and delivered him the presidency.

These voting machines are faster than filling out a ballot by hand, which is why they’re attractive to busy polling places like the ones in Philadelphia. Any delays at those polling places due to complications with new policy rollout could discourage voters from voting and would certainly lead to lost votes for whomever emerges as Trump’s challenger in a crucial battleground state, which clearly Wolf and the Democrats very much wish to avoid.

If the governor’s effort to secure the integrity of Pennsylvania’s voting system was sincere, he’d require Philadelphia and Northampton County to fall in line like the rest of us and use actual paper ballots.

But because he is looking to give a free pass in the name of speed to Democratic majority areas, it’s hard to believe this is anything but a plan geared toward securing his party’s candidate’s victory this fall.

We hope the federal judge hearing the case sees this for what it is and makes sure all of Pennsylvania — including areas friendly to the Democratic Party — is conducting its elections in the same manner.

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