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Voting machine ban cost $150,000
J.D. Prose, Beaver County Times
 BEAVER - The Pennsylvania Department of State's decision to ban Beaver County's electronic voting system just five weeks before the May primary cost the county more than $150,000, and officials want all of it reimbursed.

On Tuesday, county Assistant Solicitor Joseph Askar submitted a $151,103 bill to the state for expenses the county incurred from using paper ballots instead of its $1.2 million Patriot touch-screen voting system.

The total, county officials said, would rise because the bill did not include the expenses associated with a recount of eight precincts in the county judge race. Those costs are still being totaled.

Thomas Rookey, director of Mercer County's registration and election bureau, said he sent the state a bill for $113,000 a few weeks ago. Frances Pratt, Greene County's director of elections and voter registration, did not return a telephone call seeking comment on her county's expenses.

Beaver, Greene and Mercer were the only three counties in the state that used the Patriot system, which is manufactured by California-based UniLect Corp.

According to a report done by Dorene Mandity, Beaver County's elections director, the county had the following additional expenses:

$110,310 to ES&S, the Nebraska company that provided paper ballots, and from which the county rented machines to scan and count ballots.

$15,765 for election officials in all 129 precincts.

$13,299 for wages and benefits for the write-in board, returns board, deputy sheriffs, public works employees and other workers.

$4,536 for shipping charges.

$2,651 for a security camera and locks.

$2,395 for ads instructing voters on how to use the paper ballots.

$1,589 for supplies.

$557 for voting booth material.

Mandity said the county would have similar expenses - minus the shipping charges for machines that remain in the courthouse - because it will use paper ballots in the November general election.

Secretary of State Pedro Cortes revoked the certification of the Patriot system in April after it failed a February examination administered by Carnegie Mellon University computer professor Michael Shamos.

The examination was initially ordered because of a high undervote in the 2004 presidential election. An undervote occurs when the number of ballots cast in a race is lower than the number of total voters in an election.

Also, 19 county residents led by New Sewickley Township resident Sheila Green petitioned the Department of State to retest the electronic machines.

County officials and Jack Gerbel, president of UniLect, pursuaded Cortes to have Shamos conduct another examination, which took place on April 22 in Harrisburg.

Among other issues, the system repeatedly failed to register Shamos' fingertip touches during the exam, and the revocation was upheld.

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