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The Black Political Empowerment Project

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

B-PEP, the Black Political Empowerment Project, was launched on May 21, 1986 as a non-partisan community collaborative.

about us

B-PEP is primarily a volunteer organization which relies upon the dedication of people who donate an incredible number of hours to an organization that they truly believe in because of its ability to “uplift” our communities by providing “hope” and a sense of purpose and empowerment.

About Us


Coalition Against Violence


Coalition Against Violence (CAV) is a broad-based, independent coalition of Community Leaders, Religious Leaders, and Police.


Voter Empowerment

B-PEP is a part of the Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network, Election Protection.


Pittsburgh City Council Public Hearing On Creating A Referendum To Have TheCounty Provide New Voting Machines

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 At 2pm

City Council Chambers

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

To register ...

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City Council Chambers

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

To register to speak (for up to 3 min.)
Call:(412) 255-2138 before 10am, August 30, 2017

For more information call David Tessitor: (412) 532-8338

Your action needed:

Attend – If possible, we need your presence to show our support forCity Council creating the referendum.
Speak: – If nothing else, just saying you support the referendum can help. If you want to use some of the talking points below, that would be great. If you want to read the comments of somebody who can’t make it, that would help too. Please sign up with the City Clerk by calling 412-255-2138 by 10am Wednesday.
Write: – Send an email to your City Council member or a letter urging him or her to support the referendum (we can hand deliver letters for you).
Call: – You can speak to your City Council member or their staff by phoning the City Clerk at 412-255-2138. Let them know you want City Council to put the voting machine referendum on the ballot.


For over a dozen years B-PEP has advocated the use of human-readable, recountable paper records or ballots for elections as the best means to verify every vote has been counted correctly. This past summer B-PEP endorsed and participated in an effort to get Allegheny County Council to pass an ordinance which would create a Voting Process Review Commission that would select the best voting system for Allegheny County voters to use, after which a referendum would enable voters to approve or disapprove of its acquisition.

Since 2005, Pittsburgh City Council has repeatedly passed resolutions requesting County Council to provide voting machines which utiilize a verifiable paper record or ballot. City Council President signed a petition for the ordinance this summer and reportedly the Mayor had his interns gathering signatures for it.

Unfortunately, the County Solicitor has prevented that ordinance from going before County Council. B-PEP is currently a party to a legal action challenging his ruling.

Plan B:

City Council can now take the matter to another level by allowing the voters of Pittsburgh to require the County to replace the old, insecure, obsolete voting machines used in the City with new, secure voting machines. If there is ever any question of the results, people could then independently recount the results using their own eyes without needing special devices. City Council can create a City referendum on the matter because the Pennsylvania Election Code provides that the voters in every township, borough, town, and city can determine their means of voting. City Council has scheduled a public hearing on such a proposed referendum. The public hearing will be this Wednesday at 2pm in City Council Chambers.

So far, City Council has seemed very receptive to putting the referendum onthe City ballot. It would cost the City nothing to get the new voting machines. They need to see there is support for the measure. After over adecade of effort, this is the best possibility for B-PEP and the others working on the issue to finally succeed

Talking points

- 17 Pennsylvania counties, as near as Indiana County, vote on paper ballots

- Entire states have given up on paperless electronic voting and switched to paper, such as Maryland in 2016.

- The touch screen technology of the County’s voting machines is obsolete and is the same as used on the old Palm Pilots. It needs to be recalibrated each election and can go out of calibration during delivery to the polls, recording a different result than the voter intended.

- The software on the machines is not password protected and could be accessed and changed.

- In mid-2007 Steven M. Pearson of ES&S sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth indicating that a back door in the iVotronic firmware was expected to be closed “later this year.” Ten years later our machines are still running exactly the same software. Every year of those ten years has seen more-sophisticated attacks on vulnerabilities like this one. If the vendor of these machines isn’t fixing admitted vulnerabilities, Allegheny Council should act to retire them.

- The Secretary of State of Ohio in 2007 hired a panel of computer security experts, who uncovered serious security flaws in the iVotronic software. Ohio decided those flaws were severe enough that it was necessary to add a paper trail.

- Machines (current and new) should be evaluated by credentialed computer security experts. The current machines never were.

- People all over the country - and around the world - understand that having a ballot cast on paper, regardless how it is counted initially, means that it can be recounted by hand in contested races, and that any amount of hacking of the computer systems doing the counting cannot change the final tally which is always available by counting the paper.

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Voting Rights Are Under Attack!

“We Won’t Turn Back”


"Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights ...

"Give us the ballot and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law ...
"Give us the ballot and we will fill our legislative halls with men of good will ...
"Give us the ballot and we will place judges on the benches of the South who will do justly and love mercy ...
In this new era of “Making America Great Again” the Trump Administration, Federal and State legislatures seemingly want to turn back the clock to the Pre-Civil Rights era.
The Voting Rights Bill of 1965 (and subsequent re-instatements) is under serious attack as Federal and State Legislators strive to enact laws that threaten the Right to Vote for minorities and the disenfranchised in states across this nation.
In his May 17, 1957 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the “Give us the Ballot” speech at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom non-violent demonstration in Washington, D.C. In his speech, King urged the President and members of Congress to ensure voting rights for African Americans and indicted both political parties for betraying the cause of justice. “The Democrats have betrayed it by capitulating to the prejudices and undemocratic practices of the southern Dixiecrats. The Republicans have betrayed it by capitulating to the blatant hypocrisy of right wing, reactionary northerners. These men so often have a high blood pressure of words and an anemia of deeds.”3
Sounds like 2017, doesn’t it?
Now, more than ever, it is so important that --- African Americans vote in EACH – and EVERY election!

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