KITTANNING – Armstrong County poll workers, as well as local voters, had a chance last week to test out new electronic voting machines from three different companies during an open house at the Kittanning Township Fire Hall.
As with all counties in the state, Armstrong County is faced with the purchase of new voting machines in order to provide a paper trail of votes cast.
“Our goal is to have an order placed this spring,” Armstrong County elections director Jennifer Ballas said, noting that the timeframe would allow for poll workers to be trained on the new equipment during the summer before the machines are put into use for November’s general election.
At the fire hall last week, visitors had an opportunity to learn about the various options offered by Election Systems and Software of Omaha, Neb.; Clear Ballot of Boston, Mass.; and the county’s current provider, Dominion Voting of Denver, Colo.
Ballas said the county’s current machines were purchased in 2006 and do not offer a paper printout of votes cast.
A representative from ES&S said that their equipment would help cut down on lines at the polls and “eliminate a lot of human error” in the voting process.
The system uses either a paper ballot on which voters can fill in the oval next to the candidate of their choice, or a touch-screen voting system that offers a printed ballot once completed.
Clear Ballot representatives touted the portable nature of their voting system, which they said uses a paper ballot and optical scanner that can capture any kind of mark in any color pen or pencil. With the paper ballots, the representative said only one touch-screen machine would be needed at each voting precinct to help cut down on costs.
The Clear Ballot representative said that their system would require less equipment for the county to purchase, and due to its light-weight nature, would be easier for poll workers to set up and take down.
The Dominion representative also said that his company’s system offers both touchscreen and paper ballots, but said the big advantage is that Dominion does not use exclusive proprietary parts and equipment. He said that the county would save money by being able to use off-the-shelf parts, including standard printers that can be purchased locally.
Dominion also touted the fact that their system is “user friendly” for poll workers, and easy to set up and take down.
Although state funding may eventually be available to help counties pay for a portion of the voting equipment replacement, Armstrong County Commissioners recently began the process of taking out a bond issue that would, in part, fund the new voting machines. Officials said the replacement of voting machines is estimated to cost roughly $1.7 million.
Voters and poll workers who tested out the equipment last week were asked to give their opinion of each company’s setup in order to help the county decide which route to take in the coming months.