Voters step back from machines for a speedier tally

By on November 9, 2016
A voter, a pencil, and a piece of paper provides the simplest and fastest way to tally election results, according to local election officials.

A voter, a pencil, and a piece of paper provides the simplest and fastest way to tally election results, according to local election officials.

It may seem like a step backward, but Lancaster County poll workers this year were gently encouraging voters to use paper ballots.

The reason, said Randall O. Wenger, chief clerk to the Lancaster County Board of Elections, is that in a year when voter turnout was expected to be heavy, paper is faster.

“We have ordered enough paper ballots to give one to every voter in the county,” he said.

Akron Judge of Elections Dennis Fulmer explained why paper works better for this election, and maybe for all elections.

Voting machines are designed to be simple for all users, but not all users are designed to navigate voting machines, he said. To people unaccustomed to dealing with computers, they can be a puzzle. Help is always available, but when a voter is stuck, other machine voters are backed up while an election volunteer helps the individual through the process.

A paper ballot is very simple to mark up, after which it is handed to an attendant who provides clear instructions on how to feed the ballot into a scanner, he said. The scanner records the vote on a computer memory card, and then the paper ballot is stored in a sealed bin.

While he was careful not to endorse one method over the other, Fulmer did point out that paper ballots produce a paper trail, which a voting machine does not.

Both the voting machine and the ballot scanner record results on memory cards. If something seems amiss with the scanner, the paper ballots are available as a backup. If something seems amiss with the voting machine, there is no backup.

Hacking isn’t a problem with either paper ballots or machine ballots, but machine results could be hacked if the machines are tied into the Internet.

Except for the very elderly, who preferred paper ballots, voters who used the machines appeared to span a wide range of ages.

Dick Wanner is a staff writer and photographer. He welcomes reader feedback at rwanner.eph@lnpnews.com.

About

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *