Berks commissioners consider printing paper poll books as backup plan to electronic poll books | Berks Regional News


READING, Pa. — Berks County commissioners voted 2-1 Thursday at a Board of Elections meeting to allow the county to print paper ballot books as a back-up plan for new electronic ballot books.

Electronic poll books will be used by all constituencies in the May 17 primary. Six such units were tested during the November elections without any problems.

Paige Riegner, Director of Elections Services, suggested the contingency plan in the event a unit fails or an Elections Judge fails to operate one properly. Riegner said paper ballot books would only be used in emergency situations.

But curators Christian Y. Leinbach and Michael Rivera wondered how such a plan could work.

“If so, what security measures would be in place to ensure that no one who has already voted can vote again,” Rivera asked.

Riegner said a review of paper pollbooks versus electronic pollbooks should be an afterthought.

Ronald R. Seaman, the county’s chief executive, told commissioners that current voting machines have no backup contingencies.

“There’s no way to have a printed poll book that voters can sign as a backup and have it pass,” Seaman said. “You either have to implement all electronic polling books and use them, or you have to put that aside and do a printed poll, but you can’t do both.”

Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt warned there could be a potential problem not having a back-up plan.

“What concerns me is that we are implementing electronic ballot books, which is something new for our poll workers,” Barnhardt said. “What if, by chance, something happens and someone says, well, what’s your backup plan?” Well, we don’t. We could have had one, but we just decided not to.

Barnhard said for the primary election there should be training wheels on the system (an emergency paper book plan), which could then be removed for the general election in November.

The three commissioners agreed that election services should contact Elections Systems and Software, the company supplying the e-books, to determine if there were any previous problems with the machines when they were first used.

Leinbach said he would vote in favor of the resolution to print the paper books, only with the possibility that ES&S would suggest there might be start-up issues with the first election.

Rivera cast the dissenting vote, saying he wanted to see what ES&S had to say first.

Leinbach said he only voted yes in the interest of time because the primary election is less than 30 days away.

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