Monday, January 28, 2008

County Faces Costs Scanner Paper Ballots Voting System

Voting Machine Paper Ballot & Scanners
Discussion Among Commissioners
Follow-up Posts in Comments to Newspaper Report

Paper ballot voting system may be purchased
By Amy Zalar, Herald-Standard
Updated 01/26/2008 12:06:05 AM EST
Voters in Fayette County unhappy with the electronic voting system in place for the past few elections may have an option in November, although the issue of long lines at the polls may not be addressed prior to the April 22 primary.

Although several voting machine options were discussed during Thursday's commissioners meeting, the end result was a motion to formulate a plan that could mean the future purchase of a paper ballot voting system.
Commission Chairman Vincent Zapotosky and Commissioner Vincent A. Vicites approved a motion to develop a plan to purchase eScan machines from Hart Intercivic. Commissioner Angela M. Zimmerlink voted against the action, instead making a motion to purchase 50 additional eSlate machines with the money the commissioners previously set aside for such a purchase.

The motion to purchase addition eSlate machines did not receive a second. Zapotosky said he thinks such a purchase would be throwing good money away.

Vicites said he has been doing a lot of research for the past couple weeks, specifically regarding the eSlate electronic dial machine as compared to the eScan paper ballot system.

Vicites said he called a couple counties that use both systems and received positive comments.

"I favor at this point going with the eScan system," Vicites said.

Vicites added that the eScan is more expensive than the eSlate machines, and a plan would have to be formulated how to make up the difference. The county budgeted $170,000 to purchase 55 new eSlate machines, but Vicites said the necessary number of eScan machines would cost about $472,000, for a difference of $300,000.

Zapotosky said he never has been a fan of the eSlate system.

"The question is, "Do we put a cost on the greatest right we have as a citizen?'" Zapotosky said.

Reader Comments
Added: Sunday January 27, 2008 at 10:18 AM EST
Where'd the $500,000 County Earmark Go
Taxpayers of PA is right on to question the expenditure of any government monies which all originate from one place. The Taxpayers.

In the case of the voting systems, federal monies were involved in the initial acquisition of a new voting system around the state. County monies were also earmarked in the Fayette county budget pre-2006 to go toward implementing a voting system that met state and federal requirements.

The federal monies were distributed under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to the states to distribute to the local counties. Counties were to come up with a plan to implement HAVA and state requirements.

For Fayette, some $1.1 million reportedly was obtained from the HAVA funding source.


As these minutes reflect, the county had set aside an available $500,000 for acquiring a voting system in a previous budget.

According to the minutes, that county earmark of some $500,000 was not needed for the voting systems.

What happened to it? Where was $500,000 or some portion of it applied? If the county money did not go to the voting system, where did it go? Back to the taxpayers? At just around that time, the millage rate was decreased, shortly after Fayette had the largest increase in Fayette history, according to reports, some 60ncrease all things factored in.

What happened between then and now is a question all county taxpayers should be asking.

Is only $170,000 left-over from whatever funding sources for voting systems?

What happened in a county budget which at one time included $500,000 specifically earmarked for voting systems?

That should be among the questions PA and local taxpayers should be asking.

Ask, because now the board is in a situation where there is only $170,000 budgeted for voting systems. How valuable would even that $170,000 be if applied to acquiring more of the same type of electronic voting machines the county already has in stock?

At least in the opinion of the two commissioners, not very valuable.

The eSlates will work the same way no matter how many more are purchased given the budgeted $170,000. Only a few voters per hour can use one eSlate. Studies by well-regarded election-watch groups show it takes less time for the voter to mark the paper ballot - either by hand or using another type of accessible voter verified marking system that marks the paper ballot - and run these through the electronic scanner set up at the polling place.

Questions are currently running rampant surrounding the paperless systems. Even if the system printed out a cast ballot record as the county site says can be done, the printout is only what was recorded as a digital image and stored on a memory card.

The "paper" record is a match only to the record the image produced. Nobody can verify that was actually how the voter cast the ballot.

A favorable feature of the eSlates is the ability for the voter to ask the Judge of Elections to determine whether the voter's random access code shows assigned and cast.

Still the voter cannot be assured the paper print-out from the digital image stored in memory is the way the person voted. This remember was not a concern using mechanical lever machines back in the day. Now it is because of the technological advances.

Should a feature be added which allows for that digital image to be printed out at the time the voter votes, before the voter casts the "paper" ballot, and the voter (in private) verifies that as a paper record, then casts the paper ballot, that could provide a solution. Activists around the country are considering just such potentials, but so far, no such system is available for the current situation of paperless systems.

Favorable to the eScans is a paper ballot record of votes as backup and in case of challenges and recounts.

There are what are known as accessible voter marked paper ballot systems with other companies which the commissioners may also want to consider.

The concern now for Fayette voters and taxpayers should be where can the necessary funds be found to meet the challenge to provide the most adequate and best "voter verified" voting system for the electorate.

We should press the board to work diligently to provide this for the Pennsylvania April 22 Primary which may factor in the Democratic and Republican nomination for President.

Commissioners' Meeting Minutes

Federal Legislation recently introduced in Congress H.B. 5036

Hold Them All Accountable

Added: Friday January 25, 2008 at 05:56 PM EST
Yes Vince, there IS a cost

"The question is, "Do we put a cost on the greatest right we have as a citizen?'" Zapotosky said.

Yes, Vince, we DO put a cost on it.

And how very liberal and bureaucratic of you to suggest that cost is no object when it comes to taxpayer money.

Taxpayers, of PA

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