voting

Katie Makin (right), 18, of Johnstown, practices making her vote count Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, as Cambria County Election Director Shirley Crowl watches at Sargent's Stadium at the Point. The D-S 200 Ballot scanner was on hand at the New Orleans vs. New Brunswick AAABA game for local fans to try to get accustomed to using the new machine before election day.

Cambria County voters were tasked with choosing their favorite baseball teams and snacks during a mock election Thursday at the AAABA Tournament in Johnstown.

Spectators at Sargent’s Stadium at The Point were encouraged to try out the county’s new voting machines, which use paper ballots, to become familiar with how the process will work in the November general election.

Choices for favorite AAABA team, MLB team, baseball foods and snacks were included on each ballot, which are then fed into a machine that records each vote.

Ballots are rejected if voters select too many choices, as demonstrated by Shirley Crowl, the county’s director of election, and will be spoiled by poll workers before a new ballot is issued.

Officials with ES&S, the manufacturer of the new voting equipment, were also present Thursday to assist with the mock election.

Joe Passarella, a regional sales manager with ES&S, said the company often helps out with public events that are meant to get voters acquainted with new voting systems.

“Any amount of voter education helps on Election Day when they go into the polls,” Passarella said.

Voters who are already familiar with a new system also helps out poll workers on Election Day when a new system is being used for the first time, he added.

The new system will make recounts and audits easier, Passarella said.

“There’s always going to be a paper trail,” he said.

In addition, Crowl said the system will be easier on poll workers who won’t have to worry about calibration issues with computerized voting machines and will be able to count absentee ballots the night of the election.

“It’s going to be much easier for them,” she said.

Next month, Crowl said she’ll begin training poll workers on the new system.

All Pennsylvania counties were directed to implement their new voting systems no later than the 2020 primary election, but Cambria officials have opted to have the new machines in place in November to allow time for poll workers to be trained ahead of what’s expected to be a busy presidential election year.

In May, the county authorized their agreement with ES&S Voting Machine Systems for new voting machines, precinct tabulators, scanners and express marking devices for about $1.3 million.

The county has paid a $400,000 down payment and has money set aside for the remaining balance, but county officials are hoping the state will provide more funding for reimbursement.

Earlier this month, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill that included plans to issue $90 million to reimburse counties for voting machines costs, but also proposed the elimination of straight-party voting as a single-button option on Pennsylvania ballots.

Wolf later announced the state would fund up to $90 million to reimburse counties for 60 percent of their voting machine costs, with the Pennsylvania Department of Economic Development Financing Authority issuing bonds and the Department of State making grants available.

Jonathan Marks, deputy secretary for elections and commissions, was also scheduled to attend the 7 p.m. AAABA game Thursday, Crowl said, and try out the voting equipment.

“I’m very flattered they’re coming,” she said.

Last week, Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar visited the Cambria County Courthouse to present a check for $138,288, a portion of federal funding and a state match

Wolf had set aside money last year to assist counties with the costs of new voting systems.

Boockvar said Cambria County was “ahead of the curve” as one of the first to act on this funding opportunity.

​Jocelyn Brumbaugh is a reporter for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter @JBrumbaughTD.

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