WELLSBORO — Tioga County voters should be using a new paper ballot system in this November’s election.
At the July 16 meeting, commissioners approved the purchase of a new voting system from Election Systems & Software, LLC. The machines will cost $579,567.
In addition, officials agreed to purchase voting machine accessories from William Penn Printing including 30 privacy shields for $379.50, 42 handicapped-accessible voting booths at $8,666 and 124 voting booths at $21,019. The accessories total $30,063.50.
“This was a mandate and thus far unfunded,” said commissioner Erick Coolidge. “Because of the benefit of Act 13, your county will not be coming into your pockets to fund this.”
The county will use Act 13 Impact Fees to cover the $609,630.50 to purchase the new system.
Although Gov. Tom Wolf has committed to securing $90 million to help counties with the purchase, he recently vetoed legislation to do that and announced that he will sign an executive order for the state to borrow those funds.
Covington Township resident Leon Kocher questioned how efficient the new system will be.
“The governor vetoed the legislation because Republicans wanted to do away with straight party voting. He said it would lengthen lines at the polls,” said Kocher. “Wait until people have to fill out paper ballots. The lines will be out of control.”
The county hosted five demonstrations of the voting system, said the commissioners. Each system is approved by the federal Election Assistance Commission and at the state level.
The county plans to have the new system in place at the Nov. 5 municipal election. Officials are planning several community education events to help voters become familiar with the new system.
Voters will mark a paper ballot, which they will feed into a scanner and tabulator. The paper copy will be retained in the machine.
Voters who are unable to mark a paper ballot can use an electronic tablet that will print a paper ballot, that is then scanned and retained by the same machine.
Over-votes will be rejected; voters will receive prompts for under-votes.
In April 2018, the Department of State told counties that all must select new voting systems with a voter-verifiable paper record by the end of 2019. That mandate came after the state settled a lawsuit brought by 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein who contended that Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin voting systems were susceptible to hacking and contained barriers to recounts.