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Blair to host public review of new voting machines

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Voting machines that Blair County will consider buying for next year’s elections will be available for public review on Wednesday.

The county elections office has arranged for voting demonstrations from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Blair County Convention Center. Representatives from Dominion Voting of Toronto; Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb.; and Unisyn Voting Solutions based in California are expected to be on hand to explain how their systems work.

Commissioners Chairman Bruce Erb is encouraging the public to attend and offer input about the systems. It’s expected that commissioners will make a decision by the end of the year, Erb said in an emailed statement.

In 2017, commissioners began taking a closer look at voting machines that would meet the anticipated requirement for machines to generate a paper trail to back up and verify vote totals. The county has been using e-Slate voting machines with dials that permit voters to make their choices that are recorded electronically, then submitted to the county for counting by computer.

While Blair County’s voting machines have no internet connection and have never been hacked, it is time for them to be replaced, Director of Elections Sarah Seymour said recently after a board of elections meeting.

“For being over 10 years old, our machines have held up great,” she said. “But it’s getting harder to repair them, and the company isn’t going to keep making parts.”

In 2017, commissioners recognized the likely pending purchase and set aside $1.5 million in a bond issue for new voting equipment. But a decision on what kind to buy hasn’t been made for lack of state certification of more voting systems in compliance with Gov. Tom Wolf’s February order.

In late September, Susquehanna County became the first Pennsylvania county to address the new security by ordering new voting machines. By the Nov. 6 election, the northeastern Pennsylvania county anticipates being ready to introduce a Unisyn system, the only one voting system so far that is certified.

Meanwhile, other counties are waiting for more choice options.

Wolf’s order in February requires replacement of all non-paper-trail voting machines before the 2020 election. The governor issued the order after the federal government disclosed that election systems in at least 21 states, including Pennsylvania, were targeted by hackers before the 2016 presidential election.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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