Digital Communities

Berks County, Pa., Tries Out Two New Voting Systems

The county is collecting input from residents about two voting systems it's considering buying for use as soon as the 2019 primary elections: One from Unisyn Voting Solutions and one from Election Systems & Software.

by Michelle N. Lynch, Reading Eagle / December 3, 2018
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(TNS) — Berks County, Pa., voters might face a two-step voting process as early as the 2019 primary.

County officials have narrowed the field to two similar systems, both made in the U.S.: Unisyn Voting Solutions, based in Vista, Calif., and distributed by ElectionIQ of Akron, Ohio; and Election Systems & Software, based in Omaha, Neb.

Both operate using a digital touchscreen interface that is voter-verifiable, said county Elections Director Deborah M. Olivieri. This entails a two-step process that gives voters a chance to make their selections and look at a printed paper ballot before casting votes in a separate tabulating machine.

The system reads the ballots and produces a report, but also retains the back-up paper ballots should manual verification be needed, Olivieri explained.

By noon Saturday, about 50 people tested the two systems and participated in a survey at the Berks County Agricultural Center in Bern Township.

A separate testing and survey session for poll workers Friday drew 450 people.

"The survey will have a lot to do with our decision," said county Commissioner Kevin S. Barnhardt.

The new machines will replace the county's current system, which is nearly 30 years old and operates on Windows XP, a platform no longer supported by Microsoft.

"We budgeted $4.5 million for this four or five years ago," Barnhardt said, noting the county was already planning to replace its system before acting Secretary of State Robert Torres issued a directive that all new voting systems must produce a paper trail to track the ballots cast in the voting booth.

Lightweight ballot units about the size of a small suitcase are offered by both companies and can be set up on folding tables or with a variety of separately priced customizable carts, booths and privacy shields.

Both systems have accommodations for the disabled.

The county plans to order about 800 of these — one per 250 to 350 voters, depending on turnout —and 220 of the bulkier tabulating machines, at least one for each of the county's 202 precincts.

Victor Colon, 64, of Reading said he liked both systems.

"I hope this will be a better and more accurate method of the counting the vote," he said.

©2018 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.