Voting machines

Barbara Miller/Observer-Reporter

Hannah McNerney, right, Washington County assistant director of elections, discusses the new voting machines at a training class in Washington Wednesday with Melanie Jewart, judge of elections of Peters Township Precinct D-2. In the background is the scanner and storage unit for the system’s paper trail.

As Washington and other counties prepare for the April 28 primary, the state government is launching customized step-by-step guides for casting ballots throughout Pennsylvania using new voting systems.

The Pennsylvania Department of State unveiled 67 new web pages – one for every county – on Monday. As a result of a settlement in a lawsuit filed by Jill Stein, who was the Green Party’s 2016 presidential candidate, state officials announced two years ago that it would require counties to introduce new methods that include a hard copy of each voter’s choices before this year’s primary.

In September, Washington County’s election board picked Omaha-based Election Systems and Software to provide machines at a cost of $2.9 million. Most counties in the state – including Greene, which selected ES&S’s system a year ago for $742,000 – have already used their new processes at least once.

Greene’s new system was used in both the primary and general elections. The Department of State said a total of 45 counties had new systems in place in time for the general election in November. But ahead of this year’s elections, the agency wants to make sure voters know what they’re doing.

“These customized websites will help ensure that all voters understand how to use the new auditable (sic) voting systems in use in their counties and give all Pennsylvania voters a clear understanding of the voting tools and options available to them,” said Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar.

The new web pages include customized guides for voters, along with contact information for local election offices, key dates and other information.

In Washington and Greene counties, citizens will use a touch screen to pick or write in candidates in the various races, similarly to the counties’ previous systems. Then, results will be printed on a paper ballot for their review. If the printout matches their selections, the voter will put it in a centralized scanning machine, which will tally the votes and store the ballot securely in case of a recount.

Counties were also able to opt for simpler and cheaper hand-marked paper ballots.

The web pages can be found at www.votespa.com.

In other election-related matters, Washington County officials will convene the inaugural meeting of an Election Review Committee at 5 p.m. today in the first-floor public meeting room of the Courthouse Square building, Washington.

Melanie Ostrander, Washington County elections director, began a series of poll worker training sessions last week for members of the county’s 180 voting precinct-level election boards.

A hands-on session for the public is also planned for 10 a.m. March 13 in the Courthouse Square public meeting room. Ostrander will also discuss Act 77, which changed deadlines for absentee balloting in the primary.

Staff writer Barbara Miller contributed to this story.

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