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MERCER COUNTY Officials want to watch exam of vote devices



Published: Wed, February 9, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The critical issue was undervotes in three counties.

MERCER, Pa. -- All three Mercer County commissioners would like to be present when the Pennsylvania Department of State re-examines the Unilect voting machines in Harrisburg.

The meeting, which will determine whether the machines meet state standards, is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday in Harrisburg.

Commissioners said Tuesday at their chief clerk's meeting, that a letter from the bureau of commissions, elections and legislation states only one of them will be allowed to attend. Commissioner Michele Brooks said she has asked that all three commissioners be allowed to attend but has not received an answer.

One may attend

A letter from state officials says one member of the Mercer County Independent Election Committee also will be allowed to attend. Dr. Michael Coulter, who chairs that committee, when contacted after the meeting said that he cannot attend, but added that another member might go to Harrisburg.

Representatives from Beaver and Greene counties also have been invited to the meeting because those are the other two Pa. counties that use the Unilect machines.

The re-examination was scheduled because of a complaint out of Beaver County.

The Independent Election Committee had many criticisms of the Unilect machines in their final report, issued Tuesday. Some complaints centered around an unusually high number of undervotes in counties using the Unilect machines in the November election.

Undervote occur when voters failed to cast a ballot for president. While about 1 percent of voters normally would not vote for a presidential candidate, the numbers in these counties were much higher than in other Pennsylvania counties. The committee's report suggests that on-screen instructions could be made clearer so that voters do not cancel their vote by mistake.

According to the letter, those attending the Harrisburg meeting must submit questions ahead of time in writing. Commonwealth officials from the Department of State will consult with their examiner and consider answering them. No questions will be taken during the meeting.




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