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Touchscreen Voting Gets High Marks in Luzerne County, Pa.

Residents testing the county’s new touchscreen voting machines seemed pleased with the new technology. Most county voters will use the full system for the first time in the Nov. 3 general election.

"I voted" stickers with an American flag
(TNS) — Jerry and Arline Ricci walked a long way to try out Luzerne County’s new electronic voting system on Monday.

They gave it high marks. They also said it was worth the effort to test the system at the first of several public demonstrations the county board of elections will conduct at the county courthouse in Wilkes-Barre this week.

“We just want to know how to use the new machines,” said Jerry Ricci, 83.

The Plains Twp. couple, married for 51 years, tried to enter the courthouse via two entrances at the North River Street level, only to find access restricted to the lower/rear entrance at the parking lot level.

After a walk down steep stairs to and through the parking lot, followed by a pandemic-related health screening, temperature check, security check, a walk up a few stairs and an elevator ride, the Riccis discovered four sample touchscreen voting machines, printers and tabulators in the courthouse rotunda.

Most county voters will use the full system for the first time in the Nov. 3 general election, since the county used paper ballots rather than touchscreen ballot-marking devices for the June 2 primary, as a pandemic-related safety measure.

The touchscreens will be wiped down after each use in November, said county election director Shelby Watchilla.

The Riccis said they found the ballot-marking devices, and the rest of the voting system, easy to use.

“I liked it,” Arline Ricci said. “It’s simple.”

Both Arline and Jerry Ricci said they approve of the new “paper-trail” step in the system, that differentiates it from the system the county used for the past 15 years.

The new system, which the county purchased from Dominion Voting Systems Inc., includes a printer which provides a printout for voters to confirm their selections, and a scanner/tabulator into which voters place the printout to record their votes.

“I think it’s great,” Jerry Ricci said. “The idea is to make sure your vote counts.”

The Riccis said they plan to vote in person in November, but will take precautions because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Precautions will be evident at all voting locations in the county, Watchilla said.

Besides wiping down the equipment after each use, hand sanitizer will be available, distancing will be practiced and all voters will be asked to wear face masks, she said.

Election board member Joyce Dombroski-Gebhardt pointed to a key feature of the new system, which lets voters know if they “under-vote,” or select fewer candidates than the slots available for a given office, such as school board.

“This is a much better system,” she said.

The voting system demonstrations continue Tuesday and Thursday from 4-6 p.m., as well as Wednesday from 1-3 p.m.

©2020 The Citizens' Voice, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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