Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

McClure: More machines, E-Pollbooks

Monday, January 20, 2020 by Bernie O’Hare Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Since the Nov. 5 election, the ExpressVote XL voting system used in Northampton County has been under siege. Both a federal and state judge have been asked to ban its use in this year’s fast-approaching April 28 presidential primary as well as the Nov. 3 general election. Northampton County’s Election Commission, which had recommended this equipment, has changed its tune following an election in which the county was stuck with machines that had been improperly calibrated, improperly programmed and improperly tested.

At its December meeting, the Elections Commission voted unanimously that it has “no confidence” in this equipment. Yet in his report to county council at their Jan. 9 meeting, Executive Lamont McClure said he may want more of them.

Basically, he has no choice. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar has told a federal court that it would be logistically impossible for counties using the ExpressVote XL to have a new system in place without about a year of lead time.

McClure told Council that other systems such as a paper ballot and scanner would have their own issues, which was certainly the case in York County. Better the devil you know. He wants to be able to purchase 100 additional machines to reduce lines at the polling precincts on election day.

In addition, he wants to replace the paper pollbooks currently used by election workers to check in voters with an electronic version. It’s called an epollbook, and looks like an iPad or tablet

The process of looking for and finding a voter in these paper books is time-consuming. Moreover, if a voter is in the wrong precinct, an election judge usually has to call the voting office to determine where the voter should go.

An epollbook enables the clerk to find a voter instantly, making it much easier to sign in. If someone is at the wrong precinct, which is often the case in a presidential election, the epollbook will tell the clerk where a person who wants to vote can exercise that right.

According to McClure, epollbooks have been used in Lehigh County for several years, and have reduced lines.

Another reason for epollbooks is that recent changes in state law will make it impossible to prepare paper pollbooks in time for this year’s elections.

McClure announced these changes in state law mean that, for the first time, people will be able to vote by mail. He said the state will be announcing its guidelines on January 10. (See Related Story).

He intends to send every voting household a letter to explain this convenience, which might also help reduce lines.

He also hinted that Northampton County might conduct a mock election with the ExpressVote XL to ensure the system runs smoothly.

He will outline his plan at this month’s Elections Commission meeting.