Voting machines

Barbara S. Miller/Observer-Reporter

Washington County’s new voting machines scanning and tabulating system is tested in December.

The arrival of new voting machines in Washington County has led to a series of mandatory training sessions for those who will be on the “front lines” in the April 28 Pennsylvania presidential primary: the poll workers.

Letters to each person who manned a polling place in the Nov. 5 election were beginning to be sent this week. About 950 letters will be going out.

“In order for the election to be a success, we need your help,” wrote Melanie Ostrander, county elections director, to those who serve on election boards in the county’s 180 precincts.

Workers need to sign up for one of 14 sessions scheduled between Feb. 18 and April 13. The county offers starting times of 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. or 5 p.m. on various dates, Mondays through Fridays. Each session will last about two hours, and there is a limit of 50 people per class to keep the number of trainees at a manageable size.

The sign-up deadline is Feb. 3. All classes will take place at the public meeting room of the Courthouse Square office building, 100 W. Beau St., Washington. Attendees will be paid $10 plus mileage.

The county’s purchase of new voting machines had been discussed since before last year, and the state required systems with a paper trail that verifies votes cast electronically to be deployed no later than 2020 primary.

No one has resigned to avoid going through the mandatory training, Ostrander said last week.

Canon-McMillan and Trinity school districts have asked the elections director to introduce the new voting machines to students who will be eligible to vote this year and others who are interested. When making those visits, she plans to recruit students to fill in election boards that may be short of help.

The various components of the Election Systems and Software Express Vote devices make up 600 ballot-marking devices and 180 cases and scanners to be used in Washington County.

Elections office staff members will be training this month on new software that was part of the $2.8 million purchase through a state contract.

According to a news release from the Department of State, Act 77, signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in October, allocates $90 million to reimburse counties for up to 60% of their allowable costs for new voting systems. These funds are in addition to $14.15 million in federal funding and a state match that Wolf set aside in 2018 for distribution to counties for new voting systems.

Forty-five of the 67 counties used new voting systems in the November election.

In addition to the training sessions and demonstrations at high schools that have requested it, the elections office expects to display the new system to the voting public on dates to be announced.

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