Franklin Co. gets loaners for Pa. primary

April 14, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Demand has outpaced supply for the model of voting machine ordered by Franklin County so the county has gotten 75 loaners from the manufacturer of a different model of voting machine to use in the May 16 primary.

The Help America Vote Act requires all states to adopt voting systems that can alert voters when they have over-voted and that allow disabled people to vote at their polling places, said Chief Deputy Clerk Jean Byers. HAVA required the systems to be in place by 2004, but Pennsylvania was among a number of states that received two-year extensions to comply, she said.

The system for disabled voters adopted by the county was the Automark manufactured by Election Systems & Software, which can be used by blind or otherwise physically impaired voters and marks paper ballots for them, Byers said. Instead, the county has gotten iVotronic machines for this election, which also comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but store voting records electronically instead of producing a paper ballot, she said.


"The iVotronics are on loan just so we'll be in compliance," Byers said. The Automark machines are expected to be delivered for the November general election, she said.

Thrity-eight Pennsylvania counties are using ES&S voting systems, according to Byers. While Pennsylvania counties can choose from a number of certified vendors, however, a number of other states, such as West Virginia, have adopted ES&S systems statewide resulting in a shortage of the Automark voting machines, she said.

The county did take delivery on the 77 precinct counters that will be used in the primary, which are now stored at an old government warehouse in the Cumberland Valley Business Park, along with the iVotronics. Last week and earlier this week, the machines were being tested, Byers said.

Paper ballots placed in the precinct counters are optically scanned before being deposited in the ballot box below, she said. The counter will alert voters if they over-voted and allow them to cast another ballot.

It also can detect ballots with write-in votes and deposit them in a separate hopper within the ballot box, she said. Previously, those ballots had to be sorted out by hand before being counted at each precinct.

In past elections, the ballots were optically scanned by machines at the county Administrative Annex in Chambersburg at the end of election nights. The precinct counters perform that task as the votes go into the ballot box, recording the information digitally on cards.

The information from those cards will be downloaded into a computer at the annex, which Byers said should speed the tabulation of election results.

The county has 74 precincts, each usually staffed by five election officials. Three from each precinct will be trained in the operation of the machines, she said.

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