January 23 – The Franklin County Commissioners will meet, 24 January 2024, at 10 a.m. in the Administration Building at 272 North Second Street in Chambersburg, where one of the topics will be election equipment.
There are 12 board actions total on the agenda, but one is a $117,000 spend on election systems and software.
Franklin County Commissioner John Flannery explained, “We are buying 76 E-Express poll books. So what these are when you go and vote and poll workers up there have to flip through those pages and find your name and find your signature, all that will be done digitally now. I think we’re going to test it with just one for this election coming up. But we’re going to have these books, so it’ll make things so much more fluid at the polls.”
The systems will be paid for through an election integrity grant from the state.
Flannery said, “I’m looking forward to seeing these in action and seeing if it speeds up our time at the polls and it’s good timing with a presidential election coming up soon to have that because we know we have record turnouts during those years. It’s inevitable. We are going to have to switch to this. So we are purchasing all of the E-poll books. However we are going with this primary election, I think we’re going to test it and get the understanding down before we push it out to all 70-plus precincts.”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “I understand technology and things being faster, more efficient. I also think the more we move away from paper documents, the less people are going to trust what’s going on. You could say, no, this is far more secure, but I’m not sure people are going to believe that right now.”
Flannery said, “We’ve had that discussion. We’ve thought about whether it’s on an iPad or it’s susceptible to something going wrong or somebody hacking into it and that’s not the case with these. These are completely secure. It’s almost like having your own book there but instead of opening it to a page, you’re just putting in J for Jansen to come up and it brings your name up in alphabetical order. The other thing that really helps with this is when people show up to the wrong polling place, this will give them that information immediately. That information will be in there about that individual voter so you’ll be able to see that and send them to the correct place. Technology is scary at times, but I feel this is a very, very secure system. It’s independent in house. It’s not linked to any internet system that people can hack. I invite you if you’re available come to the meeting tomorrow, learn more about what these are. I’m sure we’ll be able to have an explanation, but they are very secure.”
Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM asked, “Was this mandated?”
Flannery said, “I don’t know if it’s 100% mandated yet but I know it will be. It’s going to happen.”
Will people be signing on the iPad?
Flannery said, “Yes, you will still have the digital signature there just like your regular signature. You’ll be able to match it up when you sign your sheet when you come in. Absolutely yes.”
Jansen added, “I’m not saying it’s not more secure. I’m talking about perception right now. I think obviously you would say well, the paper books that we have are generated from information that’s kept electronically and that’s probably absolutely true. I just really worry that people feel like it’s very and it wouldn’t even necessarily be now but it’s like in the future it’s more easy to manipulate. But let’s face it, all of our data is becoming electronic data. That’s where it’s all stored and kept. So again, it’s not so much about reality as the perception.”
“I understand,” Flannery said.
The commissioners are also heavily involved in county operations learning sessions.
Flannery explained, “We’re cramming in as much and this is primarily for Commissioner Horst, but it’s a great refresher for myself as well. But generally every day, some days we don’t, but other days we have two, sometimes three meetings, bringing in and learning about each department. We have 52 departments over 700 employees, and deal with multiple boards. To get a new commissioner up to speed which I didn’t have this advantage because I came in over COVID. We couldn’t meet like this. I think Dean’s getting a firsthand look and we’re trying to cram as much into these early months to get him up to speed as we can but we’ve had I think 12 or 15 of these. We’ve had administrative offices, elections, open records, voters, budget and process overview, solicitors, community connections, archives, drug and alcohol and it goes on and on and on. These meetings are going to go into the spring and summer to get up to par. So the commissioners are spending a lot of time right now getting our new commissioner up to speed. Today alone, we have human services and then we’re going to learn which I already know but I do need a refresher course and this is huge to the county what the Human Services Block Grant is and what that brings to the county.”
Tomorrow the group will meet with LIDA, the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority.
Flannery said, “That is a group that has a lot of money that sold off Letterkenny land when they broke that up years ago. So we’re repurposing that land around the county hopefully for commercial and residential use.”