Some county voters' ballots not counted
CentreDaily.com By Adam Smeltz 10 November 2006
BELLEFONTE Some ballots went uncounted Tuesday after some Centre County voters started but failed to complete the electronic voting process, county Board of Commissioners Chairman Chris Exarchos said Thursday.
He estimated that fewer than 50 voters walked away from the iVotronic voting machines without pressing the button to confirm their votes.
On advice from legal counsel, Exarchos said, the county has excluded those ballots from the official results.
But the vote information was logged and stored, and it could be accessed later, he said.
Exarchos said the county is working on a precise tally of incomplete ballots. The goal, he said, is to prevent a repeat in the next election cycle.
"Even if it's one (incomplete ballot), it's too many," Exarchos said, speaking at a media gathering before a commissioners meeting.
About 42,400 county residents voted Tuesday, putting to work the iVotronic touch-screen machines in all 89 precincts.
All but about 10 percent of the precincts had smooth experiences with the new technology, poll workers and elections officials said. Six to eight had trouble printing the required "zero tape" a public document proving that the machines were zeroed out before the opening of the polls.
The only factor that prevented votes from being counted, it appeared, was some voters' failure to finish the electronic ballot-casting process.
The iVotronic machines require each voter to confirm his or her candidate choices before the ballot is cast. If the voter walks away too soon, the machine will not include the ballot in final tallies unless an administrator permits it to do so.
Some votes that were discounted that way could be pivotal in two close races elsewhere in the state, Commissioner Scott Conklin said.
In a Ferguson Township precinct, an elections judge said Tuesday that poll workers had chased down a couple voters who hadn't finished the process.
Nancy Faris, an inspector there, said some elderly voters were "very apprehensive" about the process. They had no computer experience, she said.
"The easiest way (to get it over with), they say, is to vote straight party," Faris said. "I think that's a disadvantage" to the system.
Exarchos said Thursday that workers in some precincts had been more aggressive than others in helping voters. He didn't think the voters who walked away too soon were concentrated in any one demographic, he said. A review of the voting process is available on the county Web site, www.co.centre.pa.us.
"Any time you have new technology, it's a learning curve for everyone," Exarchos, a Republican, said. " ... I think the election was good. I didn't particularly like the results, but you can't blame the machines."
Conklin, a Democrat who won election to the state House on Tuesday, responded: "I thought the results were wonderful."
Also Thursday, Conklin said he will resign as county commissioner effective Nov. 30. His term as 77th District representative will begin Dec. 1.
Former commissioner John Saylor will serve out the 14-month remainder of Conklin's term in county government. County judges decided the Democrat will fill the seat in a meeting this week.
Conklin called Saylor a friend who was "a great guy" as commissioner from the late 1970s through the early '90s.
Pressed on whether someone else should have been appointed to his seat, Conklin said only that he needs "to concentrate on getting myself prepared for Harrisburg and finishing up all the loose ends" in county government.