With state deadline in sight, Pa. voters test out new machines

Dauphin County hosted five vendors on Tuesday night.

  • Ed Mahon, PA Post

Pennsylvania counties have to select new voting machines in time for the 2020 election, which means their residents might be voting in a completely new way.

In Dauphin County, voters and poll workers had the chance to try out some options Tuesday evening.

Red, white and blue signs that said “Vote Here”  led people to the entrance of Susquehanna Township High School’s gymnasium.

Inside, county elections director Jerry Feaser was handing out surveys.

He told people to ask lots of questions of the vendors. And, he said, when they were done,  they should look for the old metal ballot boxes.

“Please deposit your surveys in there,” Feaser said. “Please don’t stuff the ballot box.”

Dauphin County is one of several in the state holding public demonstrations this summer for new voting machines. Feaser expects the replacement will cost between $5 million and $10 million in Dauphin County.

Jerry Feaser, director of elections and voter registration in Dauphin County, right, greets people at the start of voting machine demonstration on June 11, 2019, at Susquehanna Township High School.

Ed Mahon / PA Post

Jerry Feaser, director of elections and voter registration in Dauphin County, right, greets people at the start of a voting machine demonstration on June 11, 2019, at Susquehanna Township High School.

The Pennsylvania Department of State has certified voting systems from five vendors. On Tuesday, Dauphin County voters got to try machines from all five.

Marge Samsel, a retired nurse who works the polls as a majority inspector, liked a touch-screen system offered by Election Systems and Software.

“It looked like our current ballots, and I think that would be … less of a learning curve for our voters,” Samsel said.

Election Systems and Software, known as ES&S, has been a popular choice among counties. As of early May, at least 29 counties had taken what the Department of State considers “official action” to replace their voting machines. Of those, 18 counties picked ES&S.

The selection of ES&S in Philadelphia has prompted some objections from voters, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and the city controller.

In Dauphin County, leaders plan to use the survey results that Samsel and others dropped into the metal ballot boxes to help them decide which system to buy or lease.

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