Venango delays decision on new voting machines

The Venango County Board of Elections on Thursday tabled a decision to purchase new voting machines for county elections following a lengthy discussion at a special meeting.

Board member and county commissioner Albert “Chip” Abramovic made the motion to delay deciding between two companies until more feedback could be gathered from the public and, specifically, pollworkers.

“When it concerns the public, the public should be involved,” Abramovic said.

For more than a decade, the county has bought equipment from Omaha-based Election Systems and Software. Clearballot, a Boston-based company is also a candidate.

Both companies were comparable in quality and price, estimated to be about $750,000.

Board member and county commissioner Tim Brooks said the date and time for the next meeting will be determined. The meeting is intended to include representatives from the two companies as well.

“I’m really in a quandary,” board member and county commissioner Vince Witherup said. “Either one of these I think are going to be a boon for the poll workers.”

County administrator Shelly Hartle said the county has 154 voting machines, but that not that many are needed. The county will be purchasing 51 new machines, which allows one per precinct.

Voters will also have the option of manually marked paper ballots.

The new machines will be implemented in the November election.

Replacing voting machines ahead of the 2020 presidential election has been a priority for Gov. Tom Wolf, who recently proposed $15 million a year for five years – $75 million total – to help counties pay for machines that leave a paper trail in order to be more accurate and less susceptible to hacking.