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Voting glitches concern officials

Published November 09. 2012 05:02PM

Carbon County Commissioners are concerned over possible glitches that occurred with the voting machines during the presidential election this week.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Commissioner William O'Gurek stressed that the county is "not aware of any votes that were improperly cast or counted."

He then explained that the reason is because the county received word from two voting precincts Franklin Township and Towamensing Township that two machines were not choosing the presidential candidate the voter was trying to choose.

O'Gurek explained that in the two precincts, a number of voters tried to vote for President Barack Obama, but the machine was saying they were casting a vote for candidate Mitt Romney on the voting recap page.

The issue was brought up to poll workers, who tried to troubleshoot the problem. Each of malfunctioning machines were then taken out of service for the remainder of the election.

O'Gurek said that it appeared that there may have been a glitch in the calibration of the machines.

Lisa Dart, director of the Carbon County Election Bureau, confirmed O'Gurek's thought, saying that it was a calibration problem that occurred and the company that made the machines was contacted.

She added that each machine is calibrated and tested prior to every election.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, added that the problem with each ballot was fixed before the voter cast his or her final vote in these instances.

Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard said that this is a learning experience and urged all voters to make sure to double check that the ballot has the correct votes cast before actually submitting the vote.

O'Gurek said that he also had concerns because not all absentee ballots were counted on election night. According to the law, absentee ballots cannot be opened until 8 p.m., after polls close. They must then be tabulated using a scanner, which counts the votes. This process is time consuming and this election saw more than double the normal amount of absentee ballots cast.

Absentee ballots are currently being counted and will be added to final totals before the election results are certified.

O'Gurek said that at least there were no close races in Carbon this election that were dependent on the absentee ballots.

O'Gurek also voiced concern over the age of the machines, which were purchased using federal money in 2006.

The 145 machines the county owns are now six years old, and O'Gurek said that according to IT departments, six years is old for a computer.

He said that if the county must look into purchasing new electronic voting machines in the near future, it could mean big financial trouble for the county. The estimated cost for the purchase would be close to a half-million dollars.

Nothstein agreed, saying that if the county must purchase new machines, it will become a very big issue.

The counties were mandated to purchase the electronic voting machines in 2006 as a way to help cut down on time and make elections more efficient. Federal funding was made available for the initial purchases, but no such funding is available now.

"It would be very expensive to replace them," Nothstein said, "but I think we may have to address it in this coming year's budget. It's a major issue and we're all concerned."

In other matters, Henry Desrosiers, director of the Carbon County Veterans Affairs office, announced upcoming Veterans Day programs this weekend. Veterans Day is Sunday, Nov. 11.

On Sunday, at noon, in the town green in Palmerton, officials will be dedicating the new veterans memorial.

At 2 p.m., Sunday, the Carbon County Veterans Day Parade will take place in Palmerton, beginning on Delaware Avenue.

Desrosiers urged the public to come out and support the veterans.

Nothstein added "These people gave years of their life. They came home wounded, in a lot of cases not only physically but mentally, and I encourage you to get out there and support them on Sunday at the parade in Palmerton. Give a little of your time for what they gave to you."

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