Bar code blamed for late Allegheny County vote tallies

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Like a kid late for the school bus, Allegheny County is the only county in the state that hasn't finished its homework and is rushing to send final 2012 voter tallies to Harrisburg.

Why? Blame a bar code.

After an election, county officials sift through every vote, recording provisional ballots and double-checking voter information. This precinct-by-precinct count goes to the Pennsylvania Department of State, usually arriving by the end of December.

But as February approaches, the state has one laggard.

"My understanding is that Allegheny is the last one," Department of State spokesman Ron Rumen said.

Hey, it was a big election with plenty of votes, said Mark Wolosik, Allegheny County Division of Elections manager. Many of those were on provisional ballots, meaning they have to be hand-keyed into a computer.

But the biggest reason for the holdup is simpler, he said.

This year, the bar code on the form voters sign when they arrive at a polling place was printed much smaller, making it more difficult for elections staff armed with supermarket-style scanners to record all 600,000 cards. If it sounds like a tedious job, that's because it is. "We will just bite the bullet and go through them and scan," Mr. Wolosik said.

It's a manual problem with no good solution. In the past, election staff considered scanning only voters who didn't vote, but this caused no end of trouble when a few missed zaps resulted in dead folks with active voting records.

Fortunately, there's no statutory deadline to submit the fine print. But next year, he said, they will make the bar code bigger.

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