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Carbon moves to paper ballots

Published June 25. 2019 12:50PM


Carbon County voters can expect new voting machines in November, and it involves paper.

On Monday morning, the election board announced the intention to enter an agreement for purchase of voting machines and related materials from Dominion Voting.

Commissioners will vote on the purchase Thursday.

The purchase will include one precinct scanner and one ADA accessible ballot marking device for each precinct. The total cost of the machines, bid through the Costars program, is $436,546.23.

The new voting process will include paper ballots. Each voter will enter their voting place, sign the voter book and will be given a writing utensil and a folder containing the ballot. Privacy booths will be placed throughout the voting area for voting.

Once the ballot is completed, the voter will take it to the scanner, and it will be scanned. The ballot will automatically be dropped in a bin after it’s scanned. An additional photo will be taken of each completed ballot. Poll workers will not scan the ballots; it must be completed by the voter.

A tablet will be used for an ADA accessible marking device, with voting completed on a touch screen. When the ballot is finished, a copy of the completed ballot will be printed. Then, the voter will take the ballot to the scanner.

In the past, voters needed to wait in line to vote after they signed in because of the number of machines and voter cards. Now, once they are identified, the voting will be in a random order. If the person completes his or her ballot before the person ahead of them, they do not need to wait to scan the ballot.

The data from the ballots will be stored on a USB card located in the scanner. When the polls close, the USB card will be removed and returned.

The new voting machines should require less setup time for the poll workers. Scanners will only need to be plugged into an electrical outlet. The tablet will already be programmed. Paper ballots and materials will be provided by the county. Blank ballots must only be printed by the county.

Voting machines should be ready for the November election.

“We wanted to get this done now so we could have an election with the new machines before the presidential election,” said Commissioner William O’Gurek, chairman of the election board.

The switch is happening for a couple of reasons. Carbon County needed new machines because the current ones were bought in 2006 and additional ones were added in 2008. Also, a new state mandate from Gov. Tom Wolf’s office issues every district must provide a paper trail for elections. Every county must oblige by April 2020.

The election board viewed five different options, but believes the machines under Dominion Voting will be the best for Carbon County.

Training for poll workers will be scheduled when machines become available.

Machine models will be presented at public events throughout the county for residents to ask questions and become familiar before Election Day.

In other business, Executive Director of Carbon County Housing Authority Paula Fougeray previously contacted the board regarding security at a polling ward at Palmer House in Palmerton. Residents were concerned about voters overstaying their time after they were done voting. Fougeray requested a security guard to monitor the premises on Election Day.

Commissioner O’Gurek understood the request, but hiring additional security would be too costly for the county. A security guard will not be added, but Judge of Elections and the constable will be mindful of the matter for future elections.



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