By Philip Sean Curran
Voting machines that will see voters use paper ballots will be tested during the Dec. 11 Princeton Public Schools bond referendum in Princeton, as Mercer County takes part in a state program aimed at making voting more secure.
The system will provide a “paper trail” so that election officials can safeguard against hackers, county officials said.
“The current machines don’t have a paper trail, so when you hit a button and you press your vote, you don’t know where that vote went,” Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello said on Nov. 30. “You can’t see it on paper. We can’t ever check it again. You have to trust that the computer calculated it properly.”
On Dec. 11, voters will get a paper ballot and mark their vote by filling in an oval. They will insert their vote into the machine to be scanned, Covello said. A ballot will not have a voter’s name on it, but the ballots will be kept as a record, she said.
The exact polling location where the machines will be used was not available as of Nov. 30.
For participating in the program, the county is eligible to receive $100,000 to buy new voting machines. Covello said officials will have to write an audit describing how the system worked.
“Our voting machines are certainly outdated,” Joanne Palumucci, chairwoman of the Mercer County Board of Elections, said on Nov. 29. “The whole state is outdated.”
For the Dec. 11 referendum, voting districts in Princeton will be consolidated into four polling locations at the four elementary schools. Voters will decide a $26.9 million facilities referendum to pay for projects at all six schools.
“It sounds like one of the reasons they seem to be doing it is because this is a very simple, one-question ballot,” Board of Education President Patrick Sullivan said. “It ought to be pretty easy to operate for one question, I hope.”