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County to investigate voting problems
Troublesome machines hindered election

By Dave Pidgeon
Intelligencer Journal

Published: Nov 09, 2006 12:51 AM EST

LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - The day after a third of Lancaster County’s 232 polling stations experienced malfunctions, the county chief clerk of elections said an assessment of what went wrong would start next week.

“We have identified some areas that need more in-depth procedures for checks and balances,” Mary Stehman, the county’s chief elections clerk, said in a written statement Wednesday. “An overwhelming majority of the poll workers did an outstanding job during the day despite the glitches.”

The glitches hampered 70 eScan voting machines scattered throughout the county and were blamed on human error. As a result, polling stations remained open an extra hour Tuesday, making Lancaster one of two Pennsylvania counties to stay open late.

County Commissioner Pete Shaub said the board of elections will take three weeks to investigate how problems started and what to do to prevent them.

“The voting machines do operate very accurately and very well,” Shaub said. “It’s a matter of re-evaluating all of our processes.”

The problems did not affect the county’s eSlate machines, which have no paper ballots and register votes by having people use an electronic dial to highlight their choices on a computer screen.

The eScans that experienced glitches had either paper jams or had the wrong memory card ed.

With eScans, voters fill out their choices on a sheet of paper by filling in boxes with a pen. The paper is then ed into the machine that scans the votes.

Before ing the ballot, a detachable receipt must be removed, otherwise the machine gets jammed.

As for the memory cards, officials at the board of elections apparently failed to remove “test cards” in an undetermined number of machines after election officials spent weeks preparing them for Tuesday. The test cards don’t tabulate votes.

Three teams of information-technology staffers scrambled Tuesday across the county to replace the test cards with cards capable of counting votes.

To make sure all votes were tabulated, poll workers ed paper ballots that weren’t scanned into a secured emergency basket inside the eScan machines. After the machines were fixed, poll workers scanned the remaining ballots.

“Our goal was not to have anybody disenfranchised,” Shaub said. “The key thing is no votes were lost.”

Tuesday’s election drew 49.5 percent of registered voters to the polls, Stehman said, higher than usual turnout for a midterm election with a gubernatorial race.

“A large majority of those voters did not have any experience with our new voting system,” she said. “I’m confident that with every election, we will continue to make improvements in the process.”

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