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‘Nobody wants to see what happened last year happen again’: Northampton County holds 1st round of election machine testing ahead of PA primary

  • Election officials of the Northampton County Board of Elections tests...

    Election officials of the Northampton County Board of Elections tests the DS Central Count Scanners on Monday, April 1, 2024. The scanners will be used in the primary election Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Jane Therese/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Election officials of the Northampton County Board of Elections tests...

    Election officials of the Northampton County Board of Elections tests the DS Central Count Scanners on Monday, April 1, 2024. The scanners will be used in the primary election Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Jane Therese/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Christopher Commini, registrar for Northampton County, oversees Northampton County Board...

    Christopher Commini, registrar for Northampton County, oversees Northampton County Board of Elections testing of the DS Central Count Scanners on Monday, April 1, 2024. The scanners will be used in the primary election Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Jane Therese/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Christopher Commini, registrar for Northampton County, oversees Northampton County Board...

    Christopher Commini, registrar for Northampton County, oversees Northampton County Board of Elections testing of the DS Central Count Scanners on Monday, April 1, 2024. The scanners will be used in the primary election Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Jane Therese/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Election officials of the Northampton County Board of Elections tests...

    Election officials of the Northampton County Board of Elections tests the DS Central Count Scanners on Monday, April 1, 2024. The scanners will be used in the primary election Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Jane Therese/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Kristin Volchansky, advocacy director for Action Together NEPA, left, speaks...

    Kristin Volchansky, advocacy director for Action Together NEPA, left, speaks with Northampton County Election Committee Vice Chair, Scott Hough, during Northampton County Board of Elections testing of the DS Central Count Scanners on Monday, April 1, 2024. The scanners will be used in the primary election Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Jane Therese/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Election officials of the Northampton County Board of Elections tests...

    Election officials of the Northampton County Board of Elections tests the DS Central Count Scanners on Monday, April 1, 2024. The scanners will be used in the primary election Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Jane Therese/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Election officials of the Northampton County Board of Elections tests...

    Election officials of the Northampton County Board of Elections tests the DS Central Count Scanners on Monday, April 1, 2024. The scanners will be used in the primary election Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Jane Therese/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Election officials of the Northampton County Board of Elections tests...

    Election officials of the Northampton County Board of Elections tests the DS Central Count Scanners on Monday, April 1, 2024. The scanners will be used in the primary election Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Jane Therese/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Election officials of the Northampton County Board of Elections tests...

    Election officials of the Northampton County Board of Elections tests the DS Central Count Scanners on Monday, April 1, 2024. The scanners will be used in the primary election Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Jane Therese/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Assistant Solicitor for Northampton County, Michael Vargo, left, Kristin Volchansky,...

    Assistant Solicitor for Northampton County, Michael Vargo, left, Kristin Volchansky, advocacy director for Action Together NEPA, center, and Northampton County Election Committee Vice Chair, Scott Hough, are seen during Northampton County Board of Elections testing of the DS Central Count Scanners on Monday, April 1, 2024. The scanners will be used in the primary election Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Jane Therese/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Debra Biro of PA Fair Elections takes notes during Northampton...

    Debra Biro of PA Fair Elections takes notes during Northampton County Board of Elections testing of the DS Central Count Scanners on Monday, April 1, 2024. The scanners will be used in the primary election Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Jane Therese/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Christopher Commini, registrar for Northampton County, oversees Northampton County Board...

    Christopher Commini, registrar for Northampton County, oversees Northampton County Board of Elections testing of the DS Central Count Scanners on Monday, April 1, 2024. The scanners will be used in the primary election Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Jane Therese/Special to 첥Ƶ)

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Northampton County election workers began the public process Monday of ensuring election equipment will run smoothly ahead of the April 23 primary to avoid any repeat of last fall’s voting problems.

Workers tested four ballot-counting machines at the county government center in Easton, making sure each one recorded the same results.

After the 90-minute testing, Chief Registrar Christopher Commini said things ran smoothly.

“We want to make sure that the scanners are working properly, that they’re reading the votes properly,” he said.

Workers first ran nearly 1,848 Democratic ballots, Commini said, followed by 1,078 Republican sheets. The numbers scanned by machines amounted to the total number of assembled ballots, 2,926, according to Commini. He said the number of ballots was an aggregate of all county precincts.

Each scanning machine has three trays that get divided among correctly scanned ballots, those with write-in votes, and those run through with issues, such as voting twice for the same office position, Commini said. At least two scanners will be used to review the mail-in ballot results on election night, he said, with the other two available for backup or recounts.

Both county party leaders, Republican Glenn Geissinger and Democrat Matt Munsey, attended, as did Scott Hough of Bethlehem, vice chair of the volunteer county election commission.

“We want to make sure that the voters of Northampton County can have 100% trust in what is happening,” said Hough, who said he attended as a citizen. “I know all the parties involved are on the same page and making sure everything is fair and accurate.”

All counties must conduct pre-election logic and accuracy testing before every election. The testing is a series of steps intended to ensure that ballots, scanners, ballot-marking devices and other components of a county’s voting system are properly configured and in good working order.

November’s election was marred in Northampton County when the printed results given to some voters at the polls did not match their choices in two state Superior Court races.

An investigation revealed a clerical error while setting up the machines for the election caused the errors in the printouts, though the machines properly recorded the votes cast. The issue affected just the two court seats up for retention.

However, the problem led to election day confusion. Some election officials told residents to come back later to vote, and some precinct leaders switched to emergency ballots, which were eventually exhausted because the county failed to supply enough. Northampton County also had voting machine problems in 2019, including votes for a county judicial race being improperly recorded.

Many residents have raised concerns over the security of elections with the county and its machine vendor, Election Software & Systems, particularly ahead of a presidential election in which Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes are up for grabs in November.

“Nobody wants to see what happened last year happen again,” said Kristin Volchansky of Action Together Northeast Pennsylvania. The Lower Saucon Township resident said she was at a Bethlehem precinct in November and witnessed the problems and voter frustration.

“It’s incredibly unfortunate that happened,” Volchansky said. “I do think it is encouraging that we are seeing the county build stronger contingency plans.”

The county and ES&S plan to conduct “logic and accuracy testing” of the approximately 300 voting machines April 8-11, with machine inspection set for April 12.

Update on voting

Commini said mail-in ballots are expected to go out this week to voters who requested to vote by mail. People can start casting ballots Tuesday via early, on-demand voting, which requires going to the voter registration office at the government center, 669 Washington St. in Easton.

The final day to register for the primary is April 8. The deadline is 5 p.m. for registering or for updating or changing voter registration affiliation; only those registered with a party can cast a ballot in the party’s primary. As of Monday, Commini said, about 220,000 voters were registered, with about 25,000 signed up for mail-in ballots.

Voters can register and change their name, address or party affiliation by mail, or online at the Pennsylvania Department of State’s website. To register in person in Northampton County, go to the elections office.

For questions or more information, call 610-829-6260 or email elections@norcopa.gov.

Morning 첥Ƶ reporter Anthony Salamone can be reached at asalamone@mcall.com.

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