The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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October 30, 2012

Officials work to avoid voter glitches

— Election supervisors in Cambria and Somerset counties say they are working closely with emergency management agencies to make sure voters will be able to cast their ballots Tuesday at the polls in the presidential election, even if there would be a prolonged power outage.

Both counties have backup battery packs for their electronic voting units, officials said. And, if it would be necessary to provide power for lights at some precincts, some generators are available.

Voters across Pennsylvania will be voting not only for president, but also a U.S. senator, state attorney general, state auditor general and state treasurer along with congressmen and state lawmakers.

Shirley Crowl, Cambria’s election chief, said, “I’m working with Ron Springer, our emergency management director, so that we can take care of any trouble spots.”

Cambria has 473 electronic voting units for its 165 precincts, Crowl said. Extra battery packs for the units are on hand.

Because some precincts are located in the same building, the county has 150 voting sites, she said.

“Many of them are located in schools or other public buildings where generators already are available,” Crowl said.

Tina Pritts, Somerset’s election supervisor, likewise expressed confidence regarding preparedness.

“We also have battery backups for our 239 electronic units,” she said.

“But we’re hoping that everything will be OK by next week even if there are power outages this week.”

She also mentioned that Somerset would have some generators available for use in emergencies at its 64 voting sites.

Somerset has 68 precincts but a handful vote at the same location, she said.

Statewide, Pennsylvania election officials are looking to the counties – which have the prime responsibility for conducting elections – for having the polls open, said Ron Ruman, Department of State spokesman.

“They all have emergency plans. We reminded them two weeks ago to review them,” he said.

Ruman said that there have been occasions in the past when precincts had to be moved, such as in cases of a fire or flood. But those were isolated situations, he said.

In the event of a power outage, hospitals, nursing homes and areas of public safety are the top priorities to have power restored, the state Public Utility Commission has said. But many polling sites are in public facilities that would fall into that category, Ruman said.

Pennsylvania does not have early voting – as some states do – at local precincts, officials noted.

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