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Voter smashes touch-screen machine in Allentown

A man who reportedly believed Republicans were conspiring to steal today's election entered an Allentown polling site, signed in and proceeded to smash the screen of one of the electronic voting machines with a metal cat paperweight, poll volunteers said.

Michael Young, 43, of 375 Auburn St., will be charged with felony criminal mischief and tampering with voting machines, according to Ronald Manescu, chief of investigations for Allentown police.

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Police gave no motive, but a source said Young, a registered Independent, believed Republicans had conspired to win the election by using electronic ballots. This is the first time electronic machines are being widely used in a Pennsylvania general election.

"He smashed it with the cat's ears," said volunteer Jim Govostis, who watched the incident unfold at Raker Center, a nursing home owned by Good Shepherd, around 12:30 p.m.

Young, who brought the paperweight with him, then sat down, hung his head and waited for police, who arrested him without incident.

"He came in here very peaceably and showed his ID," said volunteer Gladys Pezoldt, "then he got on the machine and just snapped…He was immediately remorseful. When the police came, he got up, turned around and put his hands behind his back."

Lehigh County Board of Elections Chief Clerk Stacy J. Sterner said votes recorded on the machine were saved. More than 130 people had voted at the site by the time of the incident.

"The good news is that even though the machine is broken, the votes are not lost on the memory card. They have them in custody at the voter registration office," Sterner said.

Sterner has worked in the voter registration office for 19 years. "Nothing can top this," she said.

The $5,000 machine will have to be replaced, Sterner said. It was one of two in the building.

Volunteer Shirley Rossetti said Young never spoke as he smashed the screen. "He did a job on it, didn't he?" she said. "It's frightening, because in this day and age, you just never know."

-- reporting by Daniel Patrick Sheehan and Wendy Solomon, The Morning Call
Copyright © 2006, The Morning Call
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