BY REGGIE SHEFFIELD
The Susquehanna County Commissioners last week approved spending more than $250,000 on a new vote counting system to replace the aging one now in use.
At last Wednesday’s commissioners’ meeting, the board approved spending $265,215 for the purchase of the Unisyn Open Elect System from Election IQ of Akron, Ohio.
According to the non-partisan, non-profit Verified Voting.org website, the Unisyn OpenElect system is “a paper ballot voting system using touch screen and scan technology to scan and validate ballots . . . “
In February, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered voting machines throughout the state replaced before the 2020 election with ones that leave a paper trail. The purpose is to leave a paper trail so votes can be audited but eliminate the human hand factor as much as possible.
Also, concern over electronic vote hacking rose after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported that Russian hackers tried to access Pennsylvania’s voter database ahead of the 2016 election.
But Congress has only allocated about $14.15 million to Pennsylvania counties to buy machines and the cost is expected to grow to $125 million statewide.
Commissioner Alan Hall said that Susquehanna County has yet to hear how much – if any – of that allocation it will get in financial help from the state.
“So if funding does become available — we have checked this with the Department of State — even if we move forward with this, if funding becomes available we’ll get the reimbursement for it,” Hall said.
The commissioners also briefly discussed the continued impact of flooding in the area.
Hall estimated that it has already cost the county as much as $600,000 in damage to bridges in county and that amount is expected to continue to rise. Some of the bridges may take as long as a year to repair, he said.
Where people become vulnerable through no fault of their own you can expect to see others trying to exploit the situation, Hall said.
“Unfortunately whenever you have a disaster there are always people who are looking to take advantage. We have had reports of people going door-to-door saying they’re from the county,” he said.
“We are not sending people door-to-door. We don’t do that,” Hall said.
“If somebody shows up at their door, they need to call somebody. Don’t give them a check. Don’t give them money. Don’t give them anything,” he said.
The commissioners also reported that local gas companies Cabot Oil & Gas, Southwestern Energy Co., The Williams Companies and DTE Energy each pledged a $5,000 disaster relief donation. In addition to that, the organizers of the Harford Fair said they will donate $1 of each ticket sold last Saturday to Susquehanna County Interfaith, a non-profit organization which helps those in need. To donate to help those affected by the floods contact Susquehanna County Interfaith at (570) 278-1776.
In other business, four county employees will attend at no cost to the county a defensive driving course in Scranton.
“Just so you know, you’ll see some of our employees taking a defensive driving course, it’s not because our employees are bad drivers. It’s because if we do that it’s a discount on our insurance,” Hall noted.
The commissioners also approved a change order in the amount of $165,000 for waterproofing work related to the Courthouse Cornice including cast column tops, sill flashing, lower banding/moulding replacement, brick power washing, sealing and dome coating.
In personnel moves, the commissioners approved:
*Appointed Jesse Pruitt of Hallstead as deputy sheriff effective August 13.
*Accepted, with regret, the resignation of Cambria Ely from the position of assistant director of domestic relations effective August 21.