Pa. counties say they prefer paper ballots

November 04, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In this day and age of computers and technology, being handed a number-two pencil and a paper ballot to vote seems a little outdated.

But voters in Franklin and Fulton counties wouldn't have it any other way.

"Voters feel more comfortable because they're used to paper ballots," said Jean Horst, administrative assistant in Franklin County's election office in Chambersburg.

"A lot of people don't trust the machines," said Denise Grissinger, secretary of the Fulton County Commissioners.

Although Fulton County has always used paper ballots, Franklin County tried a different method about 10 years ago, Horst said.

Punch cards were introduced during one election in which voters had to line up the appropriate spot beside their choice and punch a hole.


"That didn't go over real well," Horst said.

Some people had trouble reading the smaller print and it was difficult to correct a mistake, she said.

Also, the county had to spend more money on 20 special ballot counting machines, which were slower than expected, Horst said.

Though darkening the ovals on the ballot with a pencil may take a little longer, changing to voting machines probably wouldn't go over well with most residents, said Waynesboro, Pa., resident Robert Royer, the basement of whose Harrison Avenue home is used as a poll.

"I don't believe they (voters) would go for that because it would cost them a lot of money," he said.

Residents who are used to the paper ballot would also feel intimidated by the machines, Royer said.

"There's too many old people who won't use the machines," he said, adding that it's more important to get the people out to vote than to speed up the process.

Ballots are still counted by hand in Fulton County, which has 13 precincts.

"The biggest problem here is counting. It takes forever," Grissinger said.

Election workers have been known to put in more than 24 hours on a big election year from the time they set up the polls at about 6 a.m. until they're done counting, Grissinger said.

With 75 precincts, Franklin County is fortunate to have two automatic ballot counting machines that can count 200 per minute at the press of a button, Horst said.

Then the results are printed out and the information is stored on a tape. The tape is then placed into a machine called the accumulator, which adds the totals together and produces cumulative totals for all the precincts in the county, Horst said.

Paper ballots also make it easier to do a recount if necessary, Horst said.

Fulton County election officials have talked about getting an automatic counting machine like the ones in Franklin County, but the price is a deterrent. A used one costs between $25,000 and $30,000, Grissinger said.

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