Touch machines get more protection:
Luzerne County official says machines will be recalibrated after setup at polling spots.
Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA) Publication Date: 25-NOV-06. By Jennifer Learn-Andes
Luzerne County will institute a new, last-minute procedure to ensure touch-sensitive layers on electronic voting machines line up with the underlying ballots. Called calibration, this alignment became an issue on Nov. 7 when two Hazleton-area voters publicly complained that other names lit up when they pressed on the names of their chosen candidates.
County Election Bureau Director Leonard Piazza said he can't dispute it happened but said he and his staff checked out reports and didn't find any evidence that the machines were out of alignment. Regardless, starting with the May primary, election workers will recalibrate all machines on election morning after they are set up at polling places. The machines are calibrated at the county voting warehouse in public before they are shipped to polling places. However, the movement and setup of machines may cause the calibration to go out of whack. Piazza said the manufacturers of the iVotronic machines said calibration usually "holds up very well" when the machines are moved, but Piazza is mandating the recalibration as a precaution.
He stressed that election workers were explicitly informed that they should void a ballot and stop using a machine if voters report any problems with the registering of votes. The workers are supposed to alert the county and direct voters to one of the other machines in the polling place. A reserve of backup machines may be deployed if necessary, Piazza said.
Piazza said he will put a serial number on each election machine and assign machines to the same polling places in each election so possible problems will be tracked over time. If necessary, any machines that draw excessive complaints will be returned to the vendor for further examination and possible replacement, Piazza said.
Voters must also take responsibility by checking review screens to ensure ions were properly recorded. Voters should also report any problems to election workers before hitting the vote button, he said. "We'll do this as an extra level of protection and to make people feel better," he said.
County minority Commissioner Stephen A. Urban, who sits on the Election Board, supports the new procedure and said he plans to initiate a discussion about calibration during Monday's 10 a.m. board meeting. Urban said the Hazleton-area residents Cherie Homa and Evelyn Graham weren't the only voters to complain. Homa is a secretary for Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, and Graham is a Hazleton councilwoman.
Electronic voting machine watchdog organizations are posting reports across the country of "vote flipping," in which voters' choices are being flipped to the opposite candidate on various types of machines, including the one used here. "I want an explanation from the manufacturer. I want them to fully disclose potential problems so we know what to look for including the voters," Urban said.
Voting precincts to change
Luzerne County should end up with 192 to 195 voting precincts when the upcoming consolidation of townships is completed, said county Election Bureau Director Leonard Piazza. The county had already reduced the city and borough precincts from 316 to 219. The consolidation was initiated to save money and comply with laws that require all polling places to be accessible to people with disabilities. Piazza said he will soon release details about the township reductions to the public. They must be approved in the county Court of Common Pleas. Jennifer Learn-Andes, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 831-7333.
Copyright (c) 2006, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Times Leader
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