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Thursday, March 07, 2019

NorCo Elections Comm'n Recommends New Voting System With Paper Trail

Last night, following a lengthy meeting attended by approximately 40 elections judges, Northampton County's Elections Commission voted 3-2 to recommend that County Council fund the ES&S ExpressVote XL over the Clear Ballot voting systems. The ExpressVoteXL is preferred by Executive Lamont McClure, Administrator Charles Dertinger, Finance Director Steve Barron and elections office staff. Voting Yes were Elections Commission Chair George Treisner, along with Commissioners Layton (Lee) Snover and Maudeania Hornik. Voting No were Commissioners Deb Hunter and Kathy Fox. Before the vote, Dertinger advised the Board that this new system will be in place for November's election.

Last year, Pennsylvania's Department of State directed all 67 counties to select new voting systems that include a paper record, making post-election audits more accurate. They must be in place before the 2020 primary. Though the statewide cost of his change is estimated at $125 million to $150 million, the state has yet to provide any of the funding. The federal government has provided a $342,000 grant to Northampton County.

Since last year's unfunded mandate, voting system vendors have been pitching heir products throughout the state. In February, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale determined that these salesmen lavished gifts on officials in 18 different counties. They ranged from de minimis gifts like chocolate-covered pretzels to more troubling all-expense paid trips to Las Vegas.

Both Northampton and Lehigh County have denied receiving any gifts. NorCo Exec Lamont McClure made clear yesterday that he neither sought nor received any gifts. This was echoed by Administrator Charles Dertinger and Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron. Dertinger said that any county employee who accepted a trip to Las Vegas would likely be fired by McClure before the plane took off.

One of the vendors, Russ Dawson of Clear Ballot, admitted that he does sometimes hand out boxes of chocolate-covered pretzels. "I do cupcakes, too," he admitted. "From Walmart."

Yesterday's meeting was suggested by Hunter as a result of a demonstration of different voting systems at Lehigh County. Tim Benyo, the Voter Registrar there, invited Northampton County elections workers. Despite predictions that no one would come to an event offering no compensation, about 40 Northampton County pollworkers participated. They came to last night's meeting as well.

These systems were rated by Northampton County poll workers. The two top choices were ExpressVoteXL (81%) and Clear Ballot (7%).

They made presentations again last night, although Clear Ballot's President wanted ExpressVote vendors to leave the room.

They were allowed to remain.

The difference between the two systems is that Clear Ballot is a voter-marked paper ballot, while ExpressVote's paper trail is established electronically.  ExpressVote would be similar to the current system. Clear Ballot would require a voter to mark his ballot in a privacy booth, after which he would scan it in a separate line "There is going to be a line at that machine," warned Allen Tp Elections Judge Sandy Pisaletto.

NorCo Deputy Administrator Amy Cozze laid out the case for ExpressVoteXL.

First, and most importantly, ExpressVoteXL has been certified by both the federal government and the state. She said the certification process for Clear Ballot was halted on January 29.This was disputed by Clear Ballot's Ingrid Giordano, who said certification is pending/

Second, the overall cost of ExpressVoteXL is cheaper when the ten-year legacy costs are included. The total cost to the county of ExpressVoteXL is $3.7 million, while the cost of Clear Ballot would be $5 million. Hunter refused to accept this cost estimate,saying it was "bloated" for Clear Ballot and underestimated for ExpressVoteXL.

Third, the Clear Ballot system raised privacy concerns. After marking ballots, voters would stand in line to scan their votes, raising the possibility that other voters could see how they voted. Hunter downplayed this concern, saying voters in Chester County are handed a folder into which they place their ballot while waiting to scan.

Fourth, Cozze is critical of Clear Ballot's logistics. She noted that the state wants ballots prepared for 110% of the voters in each district. In some districts, they would weigh as much as 80 pounds. She also noted the problems of having separate stations for marking ballots and then scanning them.

Democratic activist Joanne Messenlehner, who had earlier objected to seeing me in the room, called the decision a "no-brainer." "Taxes are necessary but I don't think we should inflate this by not doing our homework."

Agreeing with her was GOP Chair Lee Snover. "We're not a third world country," she argued. "We have technology for a reason. I don't want anyone determining the intent of my vote except for me and the machine."

Elections Comm'n Chair George Treisner objected to Clear Ballot as "going back to the old ages."

Hunter wanted to be able to review a paper system offered by ES&S, but this system failed to get any strong recommendation from NorCo poll workers. The meeting was intended to be a demonstration of ExpressVoteXL and Clear Ballot. Commissioner Maude Hornick made clear she wanted to vote that night.

And that's what happened. The two Republican Election Commissioners were joined by a Democrat to support the choice of the McClure administration.

No one offered me any chocolate covered pretzels.


Anonymous said...

The presentation on video was hard to watch because you could not hear anything. Also Ms. Hunter made some fair points. Ms. Cozze gave a very poor presentation. It was obviously written for her by the Administration. It was long on opinions and short on substantiated facts. If she is an expert on this what are her qualifications other than working with Mr.Deeritnger?

Anonymous said...

Which one costs more right now? Not some BS projected cost.

Anonymous said...

Paper ballots without the electronics is far better.

The more complex the method to vote, the easier it becomes to manipulate the vote in the machine

Anonymous said...

Cozze seems completely unfit for whatever her job is.

And did Charles! just refuse a free bridge replacement in Allen Twp?

This administration is patronage laden Titanic. What a complete mess.

Anonymous said...

Charlie Dirtinger rigged the vote. It will all come out at sometime. It always does. Charlie didn't bribe anyone, but it appears he sure lobbied for the vote. Charlie was against everything from the start because the administration made up their mind before getting the election board involved in the process. Maybe the right choice was made last night. only time will tell. You should be on that board Bernie. You appear to know more about that process than anybody. How did you get to be so smart?

Anonymous said...

Charlie seems more concerned with marking his territory than with responsibly stewarding tax dollars. Give some a little power .....

Anonymous said...

Since when was Amy Cozze promoted to Deputy Director of Administration. Outlook reflected Clerical. Didn't that have to be approved by County Council? What happened to Becky Bartlett?

Anonymous said...

Im confused does Deb Hunter hold stock in Clear Ballot? Judging from her comments and eye rolls it sure seemed like it! Cozze did her homework and presented the facts Deb didnt do any of that in fact alot of her rebuttals were what she "heard" like not having to have 110% paper ballots on hand. Sorry Deb you lost hope they dont hack your bracelet barcodes at the looney bin.

Moses Jabroni said...

I am a hard R like that old gun toting codger who likes to put up half inch groups with his M-1 at distances that could get him recruited to seal team 6.

We need a system that is free of circuitry like the milk can & marble system in the Gambia, also armed guardians working the polls with a perimeter of snipers ensuring law n order.

Anonymous said...

@8:05. Seems un-american to want to turn America in to a third world country like Gambia. In america police aren't allowed in the polls (unless requested by an election official) to avoid the appearance of impropriety or influence, as it should be in a free country.

Moses Jabroni said...

Hard R's like me and ye Olde Peter agree to speak softly and carry a big barking iron. The butterfly ballots of florida, are a prime example of why the system needs a revamp.

As for firearms it's better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

Anonymous said...

7:49... nice one CHARLES!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I called her a Deputy Administrator bc I believe that is how she functioned, regardless of job title. She gave an excellent presentation laden with facts, not opinion. Those facts are reported in my story. Clear Ballot is not certified. ES&S is. Clear Ballot requires two stations. ES&S requires one. The paper that geriatric election judges like myself would have to carrybis about 80 pounds. Clear Ballot costs more. The claim that these costs were bloated, made by Hunter, is opinion. Also, the purpose of the meeting was to decide on one of two systems. Hunter wanted a third.

Anonymous said...

Watched it did not feel like driving down in the cold. Probably the right choice. Disagree on the presentation Bernie, Cozze is no expert. Anon 7:49 is probably Charlie. In fairness to the Cozze woman, Directors have given jobs to women they like for many administrations. Dertinger is not the first to bring in someone he likes to be with him at the courthouse. Hopefully the machines workout.

Anonymous said...

I'm a super voter in Chester County (go me!)
Never experienced a line at the scanner while voting and never heard any complaints. Northampton County is such an entertaining navel of the universe.

Anonymous said...

As a taxpayer, I would like to know the official title and pay of Amy Cozze.

Anonymous said...

Tell me more about the high proportion residents with unique issues. What are the issues?
Executive Lamont McClure, in an interview outside of the meeting, added that another problem is that Gracedale, unlike other nursing homes, will accept everyone. It has a higher proportion of residents with unique issues than other homes, including public homes.

Anonymous said...

Amy is a friend of Dertinger.