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Residents view new voting systems

Forrest Lehman, Lycoming County's director of voter services, shows Tommy Grieco, a member of the board at the Center for Independent Living of Northcentral PA, how to operate the new voter machines. The machines are designed to allow people with disabilities who are unable to fill out the paper ballots in the county's new voter system, to have the ballots filled in by touching the screen. The paper ballot is then generated which will be run through a scanner to record the vote. The new system creates a paper ballot trail which cannot be manipulated by technological means.

With the implementation of a new voting system for the general election, clients of the Center for Independent Living of Northcentral PA were given the opportunity Monday to see how the process works before they turn out to their polling place in November.

Forrest Lehman, the Lycoming County director of election services, was on hand to walk them through the new system.

“There’s four or five different voting systems that all the counties are going to be purchasing in Pennsylvania. That’s how many have been certified,” Lehman said.

He explained that the one he was demonstrating at the center was called ClearVote.

“When voters come into the polling place on election day, this is what they will see. This is the amount of equipment they (the precincts) will have,” he noted.

The system is comprised of a precinct scanner with a ballot bag securely attached to the back.

“This is the piece of equipment that every voter will interact with in some way. This will scan every ballot cast at the precinct on election day,” he said.

He noted that all the voting systems going forward will use paper ballots.

“Everybody ultimately is casting a paper ballot,” Lehman. “That is so you have what is called a voter verifiable paper trail. It is a paper-based record of every vote cast. It reflects the voter’s intent. They have an opportunity to verify that for themselves before they give the ballot to us and that is a paper record of the election results that is independent of the technology.”

After a voter fills out the paper ballot, filling in the circle next to their chosen candidate, it is scanned and the paper ballot goes into the ballot bag. This is then secured at the end of voting day so that it can’t be tampered with, ensuring the validity of the votes.

One of the benefits of having the paper ballot coupled with the technology, which has made the voting process quicker and more efficient, is to have a paper record that cannot be electronically manipulated.

Lehman noted that after the 2000 presidential election, with its images of floating chads on paper ballots, there was a rush to electronic delivery voting systems.

For those at the Center for Independent Living who require special assistance in voting and might not be able to independently fill out the paper ballots, Lehman said that precincts will have a ballot-marking device, which functions more similarly to the old voting machines. There will be one of the devices per polling place, and people needing assistance must inform a poll worker that they require an accommodation in order to use it.

“This device consists of a touch screen connected to a printer. It also has a keypad and a set of headphones,” he said.

The poll worker would bring up the ballot for the voter and then the voter would navigate through the ballot. There is a backwards and forwards button and they would be able to touch boxes for the candidates they select. Other accommodations, such as the ability to change the text size and color resolutions, are available for the voter.

The marked ballot is then printed.

“One of the things we liked about this system is that it prints a ballot for the voter that looks similar to all the other ballots cast at the precinct. We believe that was an important consideration because it makes this ballot marking device fundamentally very inclusive because they feel more like all the other voters because they have a ballot that looks like everybody else’s,” Lehman said.

He noted that there is a video explaining the system on the voter services website: http://www.lyco.org/departments/voter-services.

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