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BUTLER, Pa. (KDKA) — It’s back to the future in Butler County, a return to those old-fashioned paper voting ballots.
“It feels like we’re going backwards in some ways,” Butler County Commission chair Leslie Osche told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Wednesday. “However, obviously this was a mandate that came down from the state, from the governor, that said that we needed to move to some sort of paper ballot tracking system before the 2020 elections. And so we did make a recommendation yesterday to go to a paper ballot scan system.”
Osche said the new voting system would be implemented this November to work out any issues before next year’s presidential race.
“We don’t want to experiment with that in the presidential election. You want to be ready to go,” Osche said.
The state has ordered every county to make sure there is a paper trail if they use electronic voting systems because the Homeland Security Department said this state was one of 21 targeted by the Russians in the 2016 presidential election.
“With all the news and hype about the hacking and the security breach, it’s important that we get back down, we go back to our roots, and do what works and what makes sense, and this certainly does,” Commissioner Kimberly Geyer said.
Commissioners say the current electronic, no paper trail, system was old anyways, and money had been set aside for its replacement — estimated at just over $1 million.
So far, they say, Butler voters have not objected.
“Pretty much everybody said, look, that’s one of the primary goals of what we do in county government — make sure that the election is safe and honorable — so they have no issue with the expense is what everyone has fed back to me,” Commissioner Kevin Boozel said. “They want to make sure that they have a fair, clean election, and that’s critical, and so we are delivering that.”
While voters will vote by paper, using the ES 200 system the ballots will be scanned and tabulated electronically, meaning no long waits for results like in the old days.
“I’ve heard some talk about going backwards being that we’re not going to have the electronic voting machines any more, but people adjust and again we really don’t have a choice,” said Shari Brewer, Butler County’s director of elections. “We have to have a paper trail.”
Brewer says the new system will be easy for voters.
“They just have to color in the oval,” Brewer said.
But if you put an x next to your candidate’s name, that works, too.
“It’ll be an 8-1/2 by 14 legal size paper [ballot], front and back,” Brewer said.
Once the voter is done voting, she adds, “They will take it over to the scanner, and they take their ballot outside the secrecy envelope, and slip it into the scanner themselves. That way no one else will see their ballot and how they voted.”
Because all three county commissioners are on the ballot this November when the new paper system will be implemented along with the scanners, the final decision on the voting process is going to be made by a judge-appointed board of elections.
But nobody expects major changes in the months ahead.