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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Paper Ballots Under Fire in Montgomery County

Last year, Pennsylvania's Department of State mandated all 67 counties to start using voting systems that include a voter-verifiable paper trail. They must be in place for next year's Presidential contest. In Northampton County, both the Elections Commission (3-2) and County Council (8-1) have opted for a new, $2.9 million, voting system called the Express Vote XL. It's a hybrid that combines a 32" touch screen with a independent voter-verifiable paper record that is digitally scanned.  The alternative was a paper ballot system. But a large number of  elections judges were leery of that alternative, citing privacy concerns, long lines and confusion. Based on the experience of voters in Montgomery County who used paper ballots in the Spring primary, it appears that every concern raised by judges was justified.

According to a Philadelphia Inquirer story, Montgomery began using paper ballots during the May 15 primary. Voters marked ballots with a pen, shading in bubbles like a n SAT, and then scanned them.

NorCo election judges and county administration employee Amy Cozze predicted that the use of paper ballots would create privacy concerns, and that's exactly what happened in Montgomery County. Cozze and election judges predicted long lines. That's exactly what happened in Montgomery County.

Montgomery election officials downplayed the complaints because otherwise, they'd have to admit they were wrong.

Here's an excerpt from the story:
At the Upper Dublin Sports Center, Prashant Rushi, 35, of Ambler, said it took him 20 minutes to vote around 7 a.m.

“This process isn’t going to fare well,” he said. “Imagine what it’s going to happen during the peak times.”

Rushi, a Democrat who works in health-care licensing, said he worries that in future elections people will ditch long lines and not vote because of the new system.

“Instead of going backward to paper ballots,” he said, "they should’ve gone forward to digital.”

Afternoon voter Thomas Wagner, a 67-year-old welder living in Plymouth Township, was also not a fan.

“Cardboard boxes. I’m impressed,” he said sarcastically. “We’re going back to basics. This is crazy.”

He said he was “forewarned” by neighbors who had voted earlier in the day.

“They said, `Bring a lunch. It might be a while.' ”

David Hartman, a 59-year-old Plymouth Township resident, volunteered at three local polling places to stump for school board candidates and said he heard mixed reactions to the machines.

The voting machine said he had “under voted,” because he didn’t vote for a district attorney candidate. But Hartman is a Republican and there was no Republican candidate on the ballot for DA.

  Misunderstandings like that “could slow things down” during the next election, he said.

“I’m worried for the general election more than this,” he said. “If it’s a big election where a lot of people turn out, there’s going to be a lot of people waiting. I don’t know how they’re going to handle that.”
Though the Express Vote XL underwent rigorous testing before certification, it was derided by Elections Commissioner Deb Hunter. NorCo Dem party boss Mat Munsey rallied a group against these machines with no true understanding. Hunter was more concerned about her own powers than the system itself. She also demonstrated a personal animus towards County Administrator Charles Dertinger. At one meeting, she spun around to ask him to be silent even though he was sitting there quietly.

The person who was speaking, perhaps a bit too loudly, was me. I was muttering because, instead of using her time before Council to address the competing systems, she was complaining about the lack of respect she was being accorded as an elections commissioner. That's irrelevant to which system should be chosen.

Executive Lamont McClure, who advocated Express Vote XL, said he respects Montgomery County's process. But he added, "All the fears that the Northampton County judges of elections told Council about  are real."  He noted the privacy concerns raised by Montgomery County voters and added ,"We vote in some tight spaces."

McClure has signed the contract to purchase the new system, and Acting Voter Registrar Amy Hess awaits their arrival. In addition to training election workers, she plans on several public displays.


Anonymous said...

Those paper ballot people were crazy. They went on and on with their conspiracy theories. Why did the council president let them all get that much time. h
He should have said enough is enough and stopped the speeches.

Anonymous said...

are you high?

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bernie O'Hare said...

The Council Prez allowed them to speak bc was hat is their right under the First Amendment and Sunshine Act. Had he bullied them, then he would have been accused correctly of stepping on their rights. He handled these folks correctly. Council listened, too, and even agreed to delay the purchase. But I agree that some of these people just wanted to hear themselves, and Den Hunter diminished herself by making this personal. It wasn’t.

Anonymous said...

I went back and watched the video after the meeting. It could have easily gone off the rails but it was handled well and moved along as it should.

Anonymous said...

Deb Hunter / Matt Mincey, no wonder trump won Northampton County and will probably do the same next time, these two are the catalyst of why people are leaving the NORCO DEMS

Deb Hunter is un-electable County wide and has proven this time and time again

Matt Mincey is

Anonymous said...

What is the deal with Matt Muncey and Deb Hunter? The party people are saying that Muncey wants to run his won ticket for county offices. He may even run Hunter for Executive or as the anchor of his new council ticket The democrats seem to be really self-destructive. They say they want younger preferably female candidates for these offices as opposed to older people especially men but some of these men are their top vote getters. Bernie, are they really wanting to dump their vote winners for this new blood/woman agenda or is this just more BS?

Anonymous said...

5:06. It’s true they are so blinded by their hatred of old white men in politics that they will do anything to help republicans win

Anonymous said...

My feelings are hurt as I love my tinfoil lined cap, thats discrimination and the picture should be banned.