New voting machines welcome

The announcement that Blair County residents might have access to new voting machines a year or two from now is indicative of county officials’ proactive attitude.

But sound advice for those county leaders would seem to be that, if there are new machines, they should be put in service for the first time during a general election when state and federal offices are on the ballot, rather than for primary election balloting during a municipal election cycle.

The reason is obvious.

During elections — primary and general — when state and federal offices are virtually the only ones on the ballot, the ballots generally are much smaller than when municipal offices are up for grabs.

Thus, it would seem that any unanticipated problems on Election Day or Election Night might be simpler to address when a ballot is small, rather than when many offices and candidates are requiring, or have required, voters’ consideration.

When the issue of acquiring new voting machines became the topic of county officials’ discussion last week, Director of Elections Sarah Seymour listed possibilities for when a new voting system might be put in operation as November 2018 or May 2019.

Next year’s elections will be geared toward state and federal offices while 2019’s will make selections for local-level offices and school board seats.

Thus, next year’s general election would seem to be the better of the two listed choices for putting whatever new system is purchased into operation.

Also, having witnessed the voter-fraud discussion and allegations that occurred regarding the 2016 elections — not specifically involving Blair County, but rather some locales elsewhere in the United States — it would be more palatable to have the kind of new system that’s being proposed ready for next year’s general election, rather than wait for 2019’s more potentially complicated scenario.

As reported in a June 7 Mirror article, Pennsylvania often was criticized in the 2016 presidential election for being one of 11 states using voting machines that store votes electronically but generate no paper record for voters to check the accuracy of their selections.

The new voting machines being considered for this county would provide such a paper trail. The county’s current machines, which have been in use since 2006, do not.

There also might come a time when Pennsylvania will no longer certify votes cast in counties using electronic systems providing no paper trail. If or when that time comes, Blair will be ahead of many counties.

There’s also an indication that replacement parts might not be available for the county’s current machines three years from now.

Finally, it’s reasonable to conclude that the cost of a voting system like this county intends to purchase will be more costly later than at this time; the likely savings can’t be ignored.

This and other Pennsylvania counties would welcome state and federal money for their machine purchases, but the prospects for financial assistance are uncertain, if not remote.

Regardless, Blair voters’ access to new voting machines will be a source of increased confidence — a valued component of any election.

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