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Not rigged: Test of Allegheny County paper ballot scanners goes as planned

Aaron Aupperlee
| Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016, 2:39 p.m.
David Voye, manager of balloting and returns for the Allegheny County Elections Division, organizes test ballots during a test of Allegheny County’s optical scanning machines Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 at a warehouse on Pittsburgh’s North Side.
Aaron Aupperlee | Tribune-Review
David Voye, manager of balloting and returns for the Allegheny County Elections Division, organizes test ballots during a test of Allegheny County’s optical scanning machines Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 at a warehouse on Pittsburgh’s North Side.
David Voye, manager of balloting and returns for the Allegheny County Elections Division, loads test ballots into an optical scanning machine during a test of Allegheny County’s machines Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 at a warehouse on Pittsburgh’s North Side.
Aaron Aupperlee | Tribune-Review
David Voye, manager of balloting and returns for the Allegheny County Elections Division, loads test ballots into an optical scanning machine during a test of Allegheny County’s machines Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 at a warehouse on Pittsburgh’s North Side.
David Voye, manager of balloting and returns for the Allegheny County Elections Division, loads test ballots into an optical scanning machine during a test of Allegheny County’s machines Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 at a warehouse on Pittsburgh’s North Side.
Aaron Aupperlee | Tribune-Review
David Voye, manager of balloting and returns for the Allegheny County Elections Division, loads test ballots into an optical scanning machine during a test of Allegheny County’s machines Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 at a warehouse on Pittsburgh’s North Side.
Test paper ballots are spit out of an optical scanning machine during a test of Allegheny County’s machines Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 at a warehouse on Pittsburgh’s North Side.
Aaron Aupperlee | Tribune-Review
Test paper ballots are spit out of an optical scanning machine during a test of Allegheny County’s machines Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 at a warehouse on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson's best shot at winning may have come Thursday deep inside a warehouse in Pittsburgh's North Side.

Johnson, who is polling at about 6 percent nationally, was the predetermined winner of a test count of absentee and other paper ballots for the Nov. 8 general election conducted by Allegheny County election officials.

Mark Wolosik, head of the county Elections Division, and David Voye, the county's manager of balloting and returns, ran 22,500 sample paper ballots through five optical scanning machines.

“We are checking that the machines read each oval that is filled in correctly and tabulate them correctly so that the intended result is correct,” Wolosik said.

The test went according to plan, Wolosik said.

Clinton was to receive one vote per precinct, Donald Trump two, Constitution Party candidate Darrell Castle three, Green Party nominee Jill Stein four and Johnson five. Other races on the ballot, such as U.S. senator, had votes allocated in the same way.

Each candidate in each race was assigned a predetermined number of votes in each precinct. The county has more than 13,000 precincts.

Wolosik said the test took one hour, 45 minutes. The machines jam often but are extremely accurate, he said.

Trump repeatedly has said the Nov. 8 election is rigged against him. He has warned of voter fraud and directly questioned the integrity of Pennsylvania's voting system. Officials from the Pennsylvania governor's office on down and election officials in other states have pushed back, insisting the vote will be honest and fair.

The optical scanning machines tested Thursday will tabulate absentee, emergency and other paper ballots cast on Election Day. The county expects to receive between 35,000 and 40,000 absentee ballots this election. Each paper ballot is fed into the machine, scanned and spit out. Printers below the machines churn out vote totals. Those totals are then added into the vote totals from the county's more than 4,600 electronic voting machines.

The vast majority of votes will be cast using electronic machines at polling locations.

Allegheny County accounted for more than 627,000 votes in the 2012 presidential general election.

The county already had finished its “extensive” testing of its electronic voting machines and is readying them for distribution before Election Day, Wolosik said. Thousands of machines still sat in neat rows in the warehouse, but some were loaded onto pallets.

After the election, Wolosik and his staff again will test the optical scanning machines. They will run the 22,500 paper ballots through the machines again to verify they recorded the intended result before and after the vote.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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