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Westmoreland buys more voting machines

Westmoreland County Election Bureau officials are trying to avoid a repeat of the long lines of voters who waited to cast ballots in the last presidential election.

So the county has purchased 21 additional touch-screen computer voting machines to ease the crush of voters in the largest precincts.

"In the larger elections, such as a presidential race, I feel we need more machines in some of our larger precincts," said bureau Director Jim Montini.

The county has 306 precincts and some of the larger locations, such as Hempfield and Unity townships, and in Murrysville, have up to seven machines in place for voting.

The additional machines will be used to alleviate waits in those precincts, Montini said.

Long lines formed at some precincts during the 2008 presidential election, causing the county to keep precincts open up to 90 minutes after the 8 p.m. closing time to allow all voters queued up to cast ballots.

The county will pay $48,700 to Election Systems & Software Inc. of Omaha for the additional machines. Montini said that expense will be reimbursed by the federal government.

In 2005, Westmoreland County paid $3 million from a federal grant to purchase its initial batch of more than 750 computer voting machines. They replaced the mechanical-lever machines that had been used for the previous 50 years. The touch-screen system has been used for the last five years with minor problems.

Montini said the new purchase will increase the county's supply of voting machines to more than 840 available for use in the Nov. 8 general election.

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