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County seeks funds to offset voting system

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County commissioners will try to recoup some of the money spent last year to put in place a new ballot-counting system with a voter-verifiable paper record.

The new system was mandated by the state in 2018, and Blair, through its election office in the courthouse, used the new system during 2019 general election.

Voters marked their votes on a paper ballot that was then placed in a vote-counting scanner, thus computing tallies but also having a paper record of the ballot.

Commissioners selected a voting system crafted by Election Systems and Software of Omaha, Neb.

The county used money from its 2017 bond issue and a $126,000 from the federal Help America Vote Act, to pay for the new system.

Blair County Director of Elections Sarah Seymour said the state also approved a bond issue to help the counties pay for the new systems, and she recommended Blair County submit a grant application to the Department of State requesting “not more than 60 percent” of the $963,766 cost of the system.

Commissioners Bruce R. Erb, Amy E. Webster and Laura O. Burke approved the submission of the application.

The grant will come from the Pennsylvania Election Modernization and Security Program.

In discussing Blair’s progress toward modernizing its voting system, Seymour told the commissioners that steps have been taken to conform to federal law by canvassing the registration rolls.

Letters have been sent out to individuals who have recently moved, relating that they should change their addresses, and a list has been compiled of those individuals who have not voted in five years for possible removal from the voting rolls.

The county can also visit homes to determine if registered individuals are living where they list their addresses.

That would mean going door-to-door, Seymour stated after Tuesday’s meeting.

The county is not required, has not conducted that type of canvass and does not intend to conduct such a canvass, she said.

The commissioners also approved several resolutions on Tuesday, including an agreement under which Blair through its Local Emergency Planning Committee and the city of Altoona to employ the Altoona Fire Department’s Hazardous Material Response Team. The county will allocate $20,000 a year from 2020 through 2023 for the service.

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