Voters weigh in on new machines

CLEARFIELD – Some say it makes voting easier, others say they would rather keep things as they are. Either way, voters who hit the polls Tuesday in Clearfield County got a glimpse of the future.

For the primary election, voters had the option to use the new touch-screen ballots or to use the traditional method and fill in circles on a piece of paper to make their choice.

Denny Liegey of Lawrence Township had just three words to describe the new machines: “Wonderful. Quick. Easy.” He said the machines were something that should have been put into place a long time ago.

Rebecca and Raymond Mullen also voted at Lawrence Township Tuesday. Rebecca Mullen said she has a computer at home, so voting with a computer was simple. She said that even her husband was able to navigate the system. “He can order a hot dog at Sheetz, so he can vote, too.”

Other voters weren’t so fast to take a liking to the new equipment.

Janice McCool also votes in Lawrence Township, and she said, “I just don’t like these modern gadgets.” Her husband, Thomas McCool was in agreement. He said he did not trust that the equipment would be reliable. “You vote and it might not count.”

Safeguards have been put into place for the voting system, though, according to Jim Strickland, Clearfield County MIS director. Among those plans are a seven- or eight-hour battery backup for the machines in the event of a power outage.

At least one voting precinct, Fourth Ward in Clearfield Borough, saw many voters who wanted to try the new equipment. Rose Kling, majority inspector for the precinct, said more voters used the electronic option than she had expected, and she even used the machine herself.

“We’re really pleased that they are because in November that is the only way there will be to vote.”

Kling said she and other poll workers helped those who were unsure of the new method. And, although poll workers received comprehensive training in recent weeks, the county has been sending out “rovers” to make sure there are no questions or problems on Election Day. The rovers are able to answer many questions, and they can also contact officials at the Clearfield County Courthouse for larger problems.

Rose Kling’s husband, Jim Kling, was the first voter in Clearfield Borough’s Fourth Ward, and while he tried the new system, he could see where it could cause problems for some voters.

“There might be someone who can’t push the screen as hard as they need to,” Jim Kling said. The other side of the spectrum, he said, would be someone who tried so hard to make their selection that the machine would tip over.

Others at the polls said they believed that the machines were a large price to pay just because of Florida’s problems with the 2000 presidential election. Clearfield County received a federal grant to pay for the $670,000 system.

Still, Jim Kling said he still had faith in the machines performing their assigned task. “The government dictated how this is going to happen, so they’re going to make the computers work.”

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