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Agenda Initiative dismissal appealed


n appeal was filed Mondaay, August 14, 2017, in Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas contesting the County Solicitor's disallowance of a proposed ordinance that could ultimately result in new voting machines for Allegheny County in time for the 2020 presidential election.   Nearly 700 County voters' signatures which accompanied the ordinance proposal were determined to be valid, with 500 signatures needed for the Agenda Initiative's acceptance.   County Council Chief Clerk Jared Barker said that everything else was in order too, but he disallowed the submission because the ordinance failed the County Solicitor's legal review.   The appeal challenges the Solicitor's conclusions and asks the court to order its immediate submission to County Council for its consideration and vote.   On August 22, 2017, Judge Joseph James scheduled oral argument and an evidentiary hearing for 10am, October 20, 2017.

Attorney Ronald L. Hicks, Jr., Esquire of the law firm Meyer, Unkovic & Scott filed the appeal on behalf of OpenPittsburgh.Org, the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), and three individuals who had participated with the signing and submission of the required signatures.   OpenPittsburgh.Org was responsible for the creation and writing of the ordinance in consultation with several people having expertise in cybersecurity, computer operating systems, and voting system issues.

The proposed Ordinence would create a Voting Process Review Commission of 10 members and 3 alternates who are to review the County's voting process.   Three of the members and one alternate are to have computer expertise, with 2 of the voting members being cybersecurity security experts certified by an accredited cybersecrity agency.   Two voting members and one alternate are to be nominated by organizations concerned with voter protection and voting concerns.   Two voting members and one alternate are to be nominated by organizations whose primary purpose is providing support or services for the disabled or representing their interests.   The remaining three are selected by elected officials, possibly from among themselves.

The Commission is to review the current voting process, evaluating the continued viability of the existing election equipment and making its recommendations about the County's voting practices to the County Board of Elections.   If the voting system needs to be replaced, which is anticipated, the Commission is to evaluate the available voting equipment to determine the optimum system for the County.   After the release of the Commission's final report, which would follow its preliminary report and a series of public hearings spread around the County, the Council would place a referendum question on the County election ballot for the electorate to approve or disapprove acquisition of the optimum system.

The goal is to have the new optimum voting system be approved by the voters and be in place and ready for use in time for the 2020 presidential election.   Before that can happen, the ordinance needs to be introduced to County Council and be approved without undue delay in order for the Commission to perform its duties and for County Council to appropriate and allocate or otherwise arrange for adequate funding to implement the Commission findings.

As a fallback, Pittsburgh City Council will be holding a public hearing August 30th at 2pm in City Council Chambers to receive public comment about it placing a referendum question on the next available City election ballot which, if approved by the voters, would mandate the County replace the current voting machines used in the City with new voting equipment for every City polling place.