Venango Co. commissioners sign contract for new voting machines

Venango County commissioners, at the recommendation of the county election board, have signed a contract with Election Systems & Services, of Omaha, Nebraska, to provide new voting machines.

The choice for the county was between Election Systems and Clear Ballot, of Boston. Commissioners said both companies were comparable in quality and price, which is estimated to be about $750,000.

An open house held in February at Atlantic Avenue United Brethren Church in Franklin swayed the election board in favor of Election Systems.

“It was really helpful that we had that open house,” commissioner Vince Witherup said. “We took recommendations from that.”

Witherup said members of the public and county pollworkers mostly favored the Election Systems machines.

While the three county commissioners make up the election board, commissioners Tim Brooks and Albert Abramovic have temporarily stepped down as they are both seeking re-election this year.

Barbara Crudo and Bob Murray are filling in as temporary election board members, and Witherup remains on the panel as he isn’t running for re-election.

The Department of State told counties last year that they must select new machines that provide a paper record, meet current standards of security and accessibility and can be audited more thoroughly than previous systems allowed.

New machines must be in place by 2020 as the current machines will be decertified by the state.

Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a minimum of $15 million in state funding per year for the next five years for a total of at least $75 million to assist counties in paying for the new systems.

Wolf has already committed $14 million in federal and state funding to counties for the voting systems, and the Department of State will continue to pursue more funding to assist the counties.

2 positions to be filled

Commissioners also said Thursday that effective April 8, two vacant county positions will be filled by permanent hires.

Sabrina Backer will be the chief clerk, a position vacated by Shelly Hartle who took a job with Edward Jones Investments.

Jaime Kirkwood will take over the administrative assistant position that had been held by Dottie Tawney.

Tawney is continuing to work for the county in the office of district judge Andrew Fish.