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Westmoreland

New voting machines on the horizon for Westmoreland County

Rich Cholodofsky
| Thursday, June 21, 2018, 9:57 a.m.

Westmoreland County voters could cast ballots in the November 2019 election using new machines.

Elections officials are expected to select new a voting system that meets a mandate issued earlier this year by Gov. Tom Wolf to revamp the ballot casting process to ensure every system used in Pennsylvania leaves a paper trail to confirm vote totals.

Westmoreland County this week hosted the first of four open houses to demonstrate machines that could be purchased to meet the state requirements.

“We are surveying to weigh the public's interest as to what machines and company they like the best,” county elections bureau Director Beth Lechman said.

Election Systems and Software of Omaha, Neb., was the first company to demonstrate new products. The company is the vendor that in 2005 sold Westmoreland County the touch-screen voting system currently in use.

The products demonstrated Thursday included one system that uses paper ballots that are manually filled out then dropped into a digital scanner by voters. The machines then copies and stores the digital and paper ballots.

A second potential system acts as a touch-screen machine that digitally fills out ballots for voters before they are scanned and stored in a similar manner to paper ballots. Company officials also demonstrated a system that records, prints and tabulates ballots on one machine.

But it was a fourth system, one that mimics the old lever voting machines used in Westmoreland County for about a half century, that voters seemed to prefer. Cutter Houck, an account associate with ES&S, said that system functions with a private curtain that surrounds the computer unit in which a full ballot appears on one large screen.

“We have a lot of old people here. I can't help but think they would go with the big machine,” said Diane Girman, a poll worker from New Stanton.

Dolly Graziano of Greensburg said the privacy curtain that makes the machine look like the old-style voting booths will be favored by voters.

“I like the technology. These machines are great,” Graziano said.

County officials don't yet have cost estimates for the machines. That will come later this year, Lechman said.

Demonstrations for systems from other companies are scheduled at from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on June 28, July 9 and July 23 at the courthouse.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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