WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Electronic voting machines are out and paper ballot voting is in, at least for now as voters in Luzerne County will see some big changes when they head to their polling places for the May Primary Election.

They will no longer cast votes on electronic voting machines.

Luzerne County Election Officials told I-Team Reporter Andy Mehalshick they know they have to regain the trust of the voters, and they believe that the use of paper ballots in the upcoming election will be a step in the right direction in making that happen.

Voters in Luzerne County will not be using the familiar electronic voting machines, sometimes called ‘Electronic Ballot Markers,’ in the May Primary Election.

“We will have the election poll books set up for voters to sign in they will vote by paper ballot. So they’ll be given their ballot behind a privacy screen they will cast their vote and then scan it into our scanning machines before they leave,” said Jennifer Pecora, Division Head of Administrative Services.

All the voters going to have to do is take a pen will be provided at their polling place fill in the bubble. However, many correspond with that race and once they’re done filling out the paper ballot they are going to slide in front of the scanner, like you would with the ballot marking device we’ve done in the past.”

Emily Cook, Operations manager

“So why the change,” Mehalshick asked.

“We received a lot of feedback from the public that they like that style of voting. The logistics of deploying machines for 186 municipalities is labor-intensive. So, we will still have the labor-intensive of the election but it will be on the back end after election day,” Pecora replied.

Eryn Harvey the Director of the Bureau of Elections says the paper ballot system will prevent a repeat of the paper shortage debacle in November.

“We’re going to have the ballots printed ahead of time. We’re going to print ballots per voter so when you go to vote there will be enough ballots there and we’re just trying to move forward and put on a good election,” stated Eryn Harvey, Director of the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections.

Now the $3.6 million question? What about those 700 voting machines purchased in 2019 so the county could comply with a state mandate for a voting system with a paper trail?

“What’s the status of those machines?” Mehalshick asked.

“We plan on keeping the machines at this point we’re not sure what future elections will bring but at this point, we aren’t planning on getting rid of them,” Pecora added.

Voters we talked with say they just want to have confidence in the election process.

“Well, hopefully, that will alleviate a lot of the problems. Luzerne County has been getting a bad name in the papers with the voting and last year with the paper shortage. So, I think a lot of people that I know are looking forward to the paper ballots. I myself am looking forward to it too,” explained Wilkes-Barre resident, Chuck Thoma.

There are still several moving parts to this ongoing story. A congressional hearing to look into the paper shortage is still set for next Tuesday, March 28, at 10:30 a.m., in Washington.

However, three Luzerne County officials invited, say they don’t want to give any type of testimony until after the D.A.’s investigation, which is still ongoing.