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With new hire, director of elections will be a full-time position



Published: Fri, February 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Commissioners want to pay for training of election workers.

MERCER, Pa. -- Mercer County commissioners will change the director of elections post from part to full time when a new director is hired.

At their meeting Thursday, all three commissioners said they are convinced the job cannot be done on a part-time basis.

Former Director Jim Bennington, who resigned after being harshly criticized for serious problems during the November election, worked part time. His full-time predecessor, Maurice Keaveny, said after that election that the job should never have been trimmed to part time.

Panel recommendations

The decision by commissioners accepts one of the recommendations of the Independent Election Committee, which earlier this week said that the director's job should be full time.

Commissioners said they also are taking the committee's other recommendations seriously. Once the new elections director is hired, Commissioner Olivia Lazor favors spending the money to bring officials from UniLect to the county to do training to assist in the transition. Lack of training of elections workers was criticized in the committee's report.

In addition, commissioners closely will watch Tuesday when officials from the Pennsylvania Department of State examine the UniLect machines to determine whether they meet state standards. If the machines do not pass the test, Lazor said the county would probably have to use paper ballots for the primary election. The old mechanical machines were discarded or sold when the touch-screen, computerized machines were purchased.

Acting Elections Director Michael DeForest, who also is director of the County Revenue Department, said work has already started on making sure the May 17 primary election goes off without a hitch. Detail, testing, training and education are being emphasized, he said, and he complimented the elections office staff for its cooperation.

"You're going to have a successful municipal election May 17," he said.




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