Zane Swanger tapped on the screen of a voting machine to make his elections choices, including a write-in candidate, before printing out his ballot. “OK, so it won’t even let me vote for overvotes, so good.” Swanger was testing out one of the new voting systems that Pennsylvanians could be using in elections starting next year. He’s the director of elections in Mifflin County, and that was third time he’s seen the equipment. The state is holding five voting systems expos, including that one in State College. There are different types of machines for poll workers and the public to try out as counties weigh which ones to get. “I actually made a few mistakes,” Swanger said, after casting his ballot. “I didn’t place it in the correct slot. But, it still accepted the vote properly. It’s things like that I like to test out to see, because I know voters aren’t going to follow the expected way you’re doing it. You have to expect a different situation may occur.”
Mifflin, Centre and 15 other counties in Pennsylvania already use primarily paper ballots, but most counties do not. That is a problem the Pennsylvania Department of State is trying to correct. The state has committed to moving to systems with voter-verifiable paper trails — what some call the gold standard for fair elections.
“It’s really about making sure Pennsylvanians are using the most secure, most auditable, most accessible voting equipment,” said Jonathan Marks, commissioner of the state Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation. He was at the State College demonstration.
The voting equipment most counties use is computerized and about 15 years old.
“I have two phones — I have a personal iPhone and a work iPhone and neither one of them is three years old. So, when you’re talking about computerized equipment, 15 years is a long time,” he said.