EBENSBURG – Three Cambria County judges voted Wednesday to implement a new voting system that follows a state directive ordering the purchase of voting machines with voter-verifiable paper ballots and paper records of votes cast.
President Judge Norman Krumenacker, Judge David Tulowitzki and Judge Tamara Bernstein voted to proceed with ES&S Voting Machine Systems for precinct tabulators, scanners and express marking devices.
The judges acted as the voting board of elections for the county at Wednesday’s meeting because the county commissioners are up for election in 2019.
Plans currently would have the new system available to voters in the 2020 presidential primary, but Krumenacker said it’d be ideal to have it in place for this fall’s general municipal election.
“It’d be nice to have a trial run before the presidential election year,” he said, in order to provide proper training for poll workers and get voters used to the change.
It will be up to the commissioners to approve a contract with ES&S Voting Machine Systems and authorize payment for the equipment included in that contract, which is around $1.13 million, said Shirley Crowl, director of elections.
A state grant of $138,000 is available to assist counties in purchasing new voting machines under the directive.
The state opted to require voter-verifiable paper ballots or paper records of votes cast last year in an effort to enhance auditability and security.
Crowl said she looked into three companies, including ES&S. The other companies were more expensive and did not include battery backup in case of a power outage.
ES&S is headquartered in Nebraska, but works with William Penn Printing, an election equipment and ballot-printing company in Pittsburgh, Crowl said.
“I know they’re there if I need them,” she said.
Under federal law, each precinct is required to have at least one electronic system – an express vote ballot marking device – to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Aside from one machine at each precinct, voters will go back to filling out paper ballots that will be scanned by poll workers.
The $1.13 million contract with ES&S would include a precinct scanner and tabulator and express vote ballot marking device for each of the county’s 125 precincts, along with a few extra in case of maintenance.
This system will eventually replace the county’s current electronic voting machines, which are approximately 10 years old.
Crowl said the new system will allow for more accurate unofficial election results to include absentee ballots. Counties are required to buy paper ballots for 110 percent of the population, which allows for spare ballots in case any are ruined. Additional ballots can be printed if necessary, she said.
The judges also approved polling place changes, which include the following:
• East Taylor 2 from Conemaugh Church of the Brethren to East Taylor Volunteer Fire Company, 403 Donruth Lane.
• Lower Yoder 1 from St. Therese’s Social Hall to St. Therese Church.
• Northern Cambria North at American Legion, 805 Maple Ave.
• Northern Cambria Center at Northern Cambria High School auditorium, 813 35th St.
• Northern Cambria South at Contres Greer Social Hall, 1700 Kennedy Ave.
• Geistown Borough 1 and 2 from Geistown Volunteer Fire Company/Kinery Hall at St. Benedict Church to Geistown Borough Municipal Building, 721 E. Oakmont Blvd.