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Two Hazleton area voters file complaints about new machines
One says she was unable to choose Santorum. Other says pick changed every time she went to next race.
By JENNIFER LEARN-ANDES jandes@leader.net

Two Hazleton-area residents have filed official complaints concerning problems they say they encountered with Luzerne County’s new electronic voting machines.

County officials said they will continue investigating all complaints, though they haven’t found evidence of machine malfunctioning to date.

Evelyn Graham, a Hazleton City Councilwoman, said she touched the box for Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann, and it highlighted as her ion. But when she moved on to the next race and picked Republican senatorial candidate Rick Santorum, Graham said she noticed that Rendell’s name had become highlighted as her ion. Graham said she returned to the governor’s race, de-ed Rendell and ed Swann.

“I did it four to six times, and each time it changed back to Rendell.”

Graham said the judge of elections told her she was touching too close to Rendell’s name; the worker touched it a certain way that kept the Swann ion highlighted. However, Graham said she doesn’t buy this argument because Swann’s name lighted up when she touched it.

“While I was voting on the office of governor, everything was fine. It wasn’t until I went to another race that it switched over,” Graham said. “I do not believe that there is an honest election possible anymore with these machines.”

Cherie Homa, a secretary for Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, said she “clearly” pressed Santorum’s name, but Democrat Bob Casey’s name was highlighted as her ion. She said she kept touching Casey’s name in different ways to try to “de-” it, but the highlight on Casey’s name would not disappear.

Homa said the judge of elections in her Hazle Township polling place did not have a handle on what to do. A party leader told Homa Tuesday morning that voters who experienced difficulties should vote straight Republican, so she did that.

Graham and Homa filled out Help America Vote Act complaint forms with the Pennsylvania Department of State. County Election Bureau Director Leonard Piazza said the state processes these complaints.

The screens are very “touch sensitive,” he said.

“If you just graze the screen with a ring or fingernail or bracelet or knuckle, there’s a chance you can wind up ing the other candidate,” Piazza said.

Graham and Homa say these things don’t apply because they touched within the candidate’s box using their fingertips.

Piazza said the matching up of the touch screen overlay to the underlying ballot may become slightly misaligned when machines are moved, but he doesn’t believe that happened because he ordered that all machines be calibrated – or tested for alignment – before Tuesday.

If a calibration appears to be out of whack, election workers are instructed to cancel a voter’s ballot and guide the voter to another machine until the problem can be fixed, Piazza said, noting that he did not receive complaints from election workers Tuesday about machine performance. A summary review screen is part of the process so voters can make sure their ions are properly recorded, he said.

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