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Safe Voting Machines for the 2020 presidential election


penPittsburgh.Org spent 2017 working to have obsolete, insecure voting machines replaced with a new paper-backed voting system.   In consultation with cybersecurity and computer experts and with input from voting rights advocates, OpenPittsburgh.Org prepared an ordinance that would create an expert Voting System Review Commission which would determine the best system for the County to acquire.   A similar ordinance was passed unanimously in 2006, the difference being that it was purely advisory, whereas the current proposed ordinance would instead put a referendum on the ballot by which the County electorate could either approve or disapprove its acquisition.

Unfortunately, the intransigence of the Allegheny County administration forced OpenPittsburgh.Org to take legal action after our proposed ordinance was submitted to County Council through Agenda Initiative and the County Solicitor blocked County Council from even considering it.   Since holding a hearing on October 20, 2017, Judge Joseph James held his 3.5 page decision against us until the last day to file for the Spring primary.   We must decide whether to appeal before Monday, March, 26th and community support is a factor -- we need your support now!

That brings matters to the next step for 2018, which involves approaching the issue at the municipal level.   The Election Code provides that any municipality can put a referendum on its local ballot to "authorize and direct the use of" the voting system used in its polling places.   All that is needed is a resolution of its governing body or submission of a petition with signatures equal in number to at least 10% of those voting in the previous election.   For a typical election nearly half of Allegheny County's 130 municipalities would need only the required minimum of 50 signatures.   You can obtain a petition to use in your municipality upon request by contacting OpenPittsburgh.Org.

Open Government Amendment to the Pittsburgh City Charter


n 2016, OpenPittsburgh.Org managed to obtain enough signatures to place a comprehensive City Charter Amendment on the fall ballot after acquiring a federal injunction that enabled using professional canvassers to collect petition signatures.   However, the Mayor's Chief of Staff objected and sought to have the Amendment removed from the ballot.   Though the objections were filed well beyond the mandatory challenge period, nonetheless, Judge Joseph James rejected 70 years of case law and allowed the objections to stand, then withheld his ruling in the expedited case until over two weeks later, issuing it just two days before the ballots were sent to the printer, making a successful appeal virtually impossible.

While being removed from the ballot was at first a huge disappointment, we quickly recognized it created a tremendous opportunity.   Despite the Mayor's statements of support for open government to the contrary, we could clearly see we would be ill-advised to expect the administration to implement the Open Government Amendment effectively if it were ratified.   We can now revise the Amendment, splitting it into two referendum questions, the second being to establish a new, independent Open Government Office with a non-partisan elected director.   The new office would be responsible for implementing the City's new Open Government requirements; for establishing a citywide Citizen Advisory Panel; and for providing the support needed to ensure effective proactive public participation -- all of which in the Amendment's earlier versions was to have been the responsibility of the mayor.

You can get involved and help with drafting the final provisions for the new Open Government Office by contacting OpenPittsburgh.Org today.

$20 for 2020

You can help ensure Allegheny County uses paper-backed voting machines in the 2020 presidential election by giving $20.   Your help is needed to cover the costs for litigation that would allow you to vote on the matter as provided by the Election Code and for collecting signatures to place a referendum on the Spring ballot that would have Allegheny County provide new, safe, and secure voting machines that use a human readable paper ballot or record for audit and recount purposes.   Please consider giving more if you can or less if you will.   It will combine with the donations of others to make this effort successful.   You can make a safe and secure donation online through our Paypal link.

How to bring recountable voting to your municipality

As explained elsewhere on this website, OpenPittsburgh.Org is currently the lead plaintiff in litigation concerning efforts by a number of organizations and individuals to have the County replace our aging, insecure voting machines.

However, you don't have to wait on the court's decision in order to have the County provide a new, secure voting system for use in your individual municipality.   The voters in your municipality can choose through a referendum to use a new secure voting system that utilizes a human readable paper ballot or record as the official record of each voter's choices   There are two options:   1) your municipality's governing body can put a referendum on next Spring's ballot, or 2) it can be placed on the ballot with a petition signed by 10% of the number of voters in the previous election.

This article includes a proposed question and discussion of its legal basis.   For more information and assistance in your effort, contact OpenPittsburgh.Org at (412) 532-8338.

City Council hearing update

The August 30, 2917 public hearing about having City Council place a referendum question on the election ballot went very well.   There is a truncated video online which unfortunately cut off the beginning of the hearing.   Followup action by concerned citizens is still needed.   See the revised City Council public hearing notice article for what you can do.

Important public hearing!

Post hearing follow up:   Still write and call; same info below applies.

Pittsburgh City Council Public Hearing

on creating a referendum to have

the County provide new voting machines

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 at 2pm

City Council Chambers
5th Floor, City-County Building
414 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

For more information call: (412) 532-8338

Your action still needed:

  • Write – Send an email to your City Council member or a letter urging him or her to support the referendum.   Use our contact form to email your comments to us too.

  • Call – You can speak to your City Council representative or their staff by phoning the City Clerk at (412) 255-2138. Ask for your Council representative and let them know you want City Council to put the voting machine referendum on the ballot.

Agenda Initiative dismissal appealed


n appeal was filed Monday, August 14, 2017, in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas contesting the County Solicitor's disallowance of a proposed ordinance that could ultimately result in use of a new human-recountable voting system for Allegheny County in time for the 2020 presidential election.   The proposed ordinance, submitted through the home rule charter's Agenda Initiative procedure, would create an expert commission to review the County's voting process, make recommendations, and identify the optimum voting system for use in Allegheny County; a referendum would then be held for voters to approve or disapprove its acquisition.   Nearly 800 signatures were submitted, of which nearly 700 were determined to be valid County voters with 500 being required, but the Solicitor ruled against the ordinance on legal grounds which OpenPittsburgh.Org, the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), and several individual appellants contend in their appeal are unfounded.   Oral argument and an evidentiary hearing are scheduled for October 20, 2017.

Top-down Politics vs Bottom-up Change


he 2016 election year brought to the polls large numbers of first time voters and those who seldom vote.   The overblown hype and distrust sown in the lead up to the election proved to be quite divisive and has wasted energies which could be put to more productive use.   By focusing upon the selection of public officeholders, in general, and specifically upon the nation's highest office, we keep hoping in vain for meaningful solutions to trickle down.

Electoral democracy's inherent nature of top-down governance is simply insufficient to address today's challenges.   While electing good candidates is important and not to be discounted, it's time that we pursue a new bottom-up approach.   Real solutions can only come when average citizens are provided with a structural and operational framework that enables them to work together within the halls of government where they can better monitor and hold it accountable and, at the same time, proactively catalyze needed changes.

4 pillars of the Open Government concept


hen most people hear the phrase "open government." they think of "transparency," but, while that is essential, it's only one part.   There are actually four essential pillars -- transparency, notification, public participation, and accountability -- all of which are necessary for truly open government.   By implementing comprehensive reforms at the municipal level, first with Pittsburgh and then other interested communities, we can build a base of open government from which the model can eventually be expanded to higher levels of government too.

Pittsburgh Open Government Amendment



ew Article 6 -- The Amendment deletes the present Article 6: Community Advisory Boards which is now irrelevant because City Council abolished all of the City's Community Advisory Boards, effective December 31, 2000.   In its place, the Amendment will substitute a new Article 6: Open Government which expands upon the recent Open Data legislation passed by City Council, providing greater opportunities for public participation in the governance of the city, including an ability for individuals to be notfied about legislative and administrative actions before they occur and assuring that Council and the Mayor give more attention to resident's input.

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