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ELECTRONIC BALLOTS Pennsylvania studies voting machine woes



Published: Thu, February 17, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Authorities test touch-vote machines for certification.

MERCER, Pa. -- Officials at the Pennsylvania Department of State are open to the idea of pop-up screens that would make voting less confusing for people wanting a straight-party ballot, Commissioner Michele Brooks said Tuesday.

Brooks commented after returning from a five-hour examination of a Unilect touch-screen voting machine used in Mercer County in the Nov. 2 General Election.

The re-examination came as a result of a complaint out of Beaver County about the machines. Beaver and Greene counties are the only others in Pennsylvania besides Mercer that use the Unilect machines.

In Mercer County, the machines were blamed for problems in several precincts.

Focus on accurate tally

The Mercer County Independent Election Committee has recommended that pop-up screens be incorporated into the software to warn voters who choose a straight-party option that if they subsequently press the names of any candidates included on the straight ballot, that candidate will be "deselected" or eliminated.

Any pop-up screens would have to be approved by the Department of State, and officials told Brooks they will look into that possibility.

Brooks said most of the Harrisburg meeting focused on the whether the machines met 17 requirements set out in the Pennsylvania Election Code. Examiners tested the machines, intentionally trying to create overvotes and undervotes.

Brooks said the security of the machines was also discussed.

State officials declined to address creating a paper trail for each voter, or providing better handicapped accessibility, she said.

Brooks said the secretary of state will take information gathered at the meeting and decide whether to recertify the Unilect machines for use in Pennsylvania. No time frame was given, but said she hopes the report will be finished in the next few weeks.




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