The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 7, 2012

Election 2012 Notebook | Jackson Township glitch investigated


The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — The Cambria Elections Office sent a technician to a Jackson Township polling location after receiving a report that at least one voting machine was switching presidential picks.

A woman said it happened to her around 12:30 p.m. but she caught the glitch and was able to correct her picks before casting an electronic ballot at Vinco’s Jackson Township fire hall.

“Every time I tried to select a Democrat it would revert to a Republican (challenger's name),” said Chris Wyrwas, who said she talked to fellow voters who also said they had issues.

“If I pushed the button a little bit on the left or the right, it would choose the Republican instead,” Wyrwas said.

“I can understand how these things can happen with these machines,” she added, noting that she has an information technology background. The touch screens are sensitive and display somewhat small buttons that voters must press to select candidates. “But it’s still concerning,” she added.

A service technician was sent to Vinco early in the afternoon, Cambria Elections Director Shirley Crowl said.

A caller indicated her vote for President Barack Obama instead showed up for Mitt Romney, but said the error was caught.

She said the machine did not show signs of issues, but was recalibrated as a precaution and was working properly when technicians left.

The Tribune-Democrat spoke to more than a half-dozen voters at the Vinco precinct around 5 p.m. Several said they cast votes for Democrats and all reported no issues.

A woman supporting Democratic candidates outside the station said she didn’t of hear of voting troubles since she started working there at 3:30 p.m.

Crowl stressed that voters are encouraged to closely review the summary screen, which details all picks, before casting their ballot by pressing “vote.”  

The summary screen allows voters the opportunity to change their picks before giving them final approval.

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EBENSBURG – The first precinct to reach the Cambria County Courthouse on Tuesday night was Cresson Borough No. 2.

Antonette Cox, the judge of elections, said 276 of the 450 registered voters – or 61 percent  – cast ballots.

Cambria County has 165 total precincts.

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Voting in the 2012 presidential election took on special meaning for Thelma Anderson at Arbutus Park Manor.

The Franklin Borough native also celebrated her 104th birthday on Election Day this year.

Although she wouldn’t say who topped her selections on the absentee ballot, Anderson said Republican roots run deep with her and her late husband, Harry Anderson.

“My family and my husband’s family had been Republicans all our lives,” Anderson said.

“That was until (Franklin) Roosevelt came along, and my father and his father voted for Roosevelt. That was the family joke for a long time.”

Born three days after Republican William Howard Taft defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan to become the 27th president in 1908, Anderson grew up in East Conemaugh has lived in the Johns-town area most of her life.

She and her husband spent 11 years in Chile, where Harry Anderson brought his experience in the Bethlehem Steel blast furnace to help the Chileans set up a steel plant.

Although she doesn’t remember which election was her first, she said, “I voted as soon as I could.”

The first presidential election she would have been eligible to vote in came on her 24th birthday and saw Republican Herbert Hoover trounce Democrat Al Smith in 1928.

Anderson did not plan to stay up and track the election returns Tuesday.

“I’m a little disgusted with all the political stuff,” she said.

“You’ll find out anyway who wins.”

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There are a few Election Day constants here.

Campaign ads everywhere. Party politics.

And Alda Collins’ vote.

The 110-year-old woman, believed to be Pennsylvania’s second-oldest living person, has a voting record that nearly dates back to when women first earned the right to vote in 1920.

A self-described lifelong Republican, she has never missed an election, her son, Jim Collins, said.

“Maybe some kind of record,” Jim Collins said of his mother’s nearly 90 years of consecutive votes.

This year, she filed via absentee ballot in Cambria County, where she lived much of her life. Collins lived in the Hastings area until a few weeks ago.  

Her son has since moved her to Patriot Manor in their hometown of Somerset.

Alda Collins backed Mitt Romney this year but predicted in August that President Barack Obama would keep his job.

“He’s the incumbent,” she said.

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Elsewhere:

A 30-year-old Somerset County man was arrested for simple assault over the weekend after he and a 16-year-old girl got into an argument over politics.

According to a police report, the two were sitting on a porch along Franklin Avenue in Somerset on Sunday when a verbal argument broke out. After some heated words, the man threw food in the teen’s face and she retaliated by throwing ice water at him.

Pushing and shoving ensued until police arrived and broke up the fight.

Although that may have been an extreme example, voters appeared to be engaged in the process this year as they went to the polls to pick a president and new Congress.   

Voting at local precincts was brisk Tuesday morning as voting began at 7 a.m.

By 7:18 a.m., 18 people had voted at the Cambria County Christian School in Mundys Corner. One of three voting machines was not working properly, so workers made a call to the election officer and were promised someone would show up to fix it.

While no one asked for identification at the precinct, at Shanksville a sign was posted reading, “Have Your Photo ID Ready.”

A caller to the newspaper was angered by the sign and said she refused to give her ID. She was allowed to vote, but said she felt the sign was misleading.

Two Richland township precincts also reported a brisk turnout Tuesday morning.

By 10 a.m., 159 of the 699 registered voters had cast ballots at Richland No. 6.

At Richland No. 2, 107 of 471 voters had cast ballots by midmorning.

“We’re doing very well. It’s very good,” one precinct official said.

Both precincts vote at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church.