BELLEFONTE – With the May 21 primary less than a month away, Centre County elections staff is preparing voters and poll workers for the rollout of new voting machines that produce a paper record and offer upgraded security and accessibility.
The Centre County Elections and Voter Registration Office this week held three separate training sessions to educate poll workers on how to operate the ES&S ExpressVote system.
Poll workers were given the option of attending the two-hour training in either the morning, afternoon or evening session.
An estimated 300 poll workers attended the mandatory training. At least three representatives from each of the county’s 91 precincts were required to attend.
“The new system that we are implementing on May 21 is an upgrade to our existing optical scan system we have had since 2008,” Centre County director of elections Joyce McKinley said. “Overall, our poll workers have been very happy with the new system features.”
At one training session, attendees cheered when they learned of the new automated process for voters to record write-in candidates.
McKinley said she expects that poll workers and voters alike will find the new voting process to be very user-friendly.
The county has one of the new voting machines set up in the lobby of the elections office, 420 Holmes St., Bellefonte, so voters can view and try out the system. The public also is invited to test the new machines at the elections office at 10 a.m. on May 16.
Centre County voters will have the option to use a hand-marked paper ballot or a ballot marking device that is compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Voters who use the ballot marking device will receive a printed copy of their ballot, which they will use to verify their choices before inserting it into a scanner.
Individuals in any county who are interested in becoming a poll worker should contact their county board of elections.
In April of 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of State informed counties they have until the end of 2019 to select new voting systems that provide a paper record.
The new systems are to be in use no later than the 2020 primary, and preferably by the November of 2019 general election. Systems with paper trails allow for more accurate and reliable post-election audits.
Nationwide, there is bipartisan and near universal agreement that all voters should be voting on paper ballots they can verify. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Senate and House Intelligence Committees, and many security and elections experts are urging states to switch to new systems that produce paper records.
In Pennsylvania, every voting system and paper ballot must include plain text that voters can read to verify their choices before casting their ballot. Election officials will also use the plain text to perform pre-election testing and post-election audits and recounts.
Gov. Tom Wolf is seeking state funding for at least half of the counties’ cost for new voting systems. He will continue to work with the General Assembly to implement a plan for state funding and financing.
The governor has already committed $14.15 million in federal and state funding to counties for the new voting systems.
So far, 28 counties have approved purchases or leases of new voting systems throughout the commonwealth. Centre is one of nine counties planning to use new systems in the 2019 primary.