Paper Ballots to Back Up Machines

Article excerpt

Paper ballots will be available at each of Westmoreland County's 306 voting precincts in future elections, county officials said Wednesday.

That policy change was made yesterday, a day after a software glitch affected every touch-screen computerized voting machine used during Tuesday's vote.

The problem, an incorrect time stamp in the voting cartridges that contained the ballots, resulted in about 10 machines to prematurely shut down and six machines to be inadvertently closed at the start of yesterday's polling.

Several precincts had to turn away voters for a short time because paper ballots were initially unavailable at the polls while technicians worked to restart some of the computerized machines.

At the precinct at Seneca Heights Elementary School in Jeannette, about 100 paper ballots eventually were cast after elections bureau workers drove out from the courthouse with the ballots.

"We'll have a small amount of paper ballots at every precinct in the future in case something like this happens again," said Westmoreland Commissioner Tom Balya.

Meanwhile, county officials spent yesterday investigating the error that resulted in more than 800 voting machines to act as if Tuesday was not Election Day.

The machines, instead of automatically loading ballot after ballot for voters, required that poll workers manually keep the computers on after each ballot was cast. If a poll worker pressed a button when prompted by the computer to end the voting, the machines shut off and could not be restarted.

County leaders insisted ES&S Inc. of Nebraska, which supplied the computerized machines, made the error. A company spokeswoman on Tuesday blamed the county for programming the software glitch.

"We'll find out what happened," said Commissioner Tom Ceraso. …