Tensions grow over election issues

Election matters dominated discussion at the county commissioners’ meeting and spilled over into an election board meeting both held on Wednesday, Feb. 12.

Audience members vocalized concerns – sometimes restating questions in various ways – and questioned answers provided by the board about the voting processes and changes in place for the upcoming election.

Oakland Township Supervisor Sue Rowe asked what provisions the county had put in place to ensure the integrity of the election.

Commissioner Alan Hall said all voters will use machines to record their ballot choices. In December 2019, the commissioners approved the purchase of 73 ballot marking devices from ElectionIQ.

In April 2018, the Pennsylvania Dept. of State informed counties that voter-verifiable paper record voting systems must be selected by December 31, 2019. The state was allocated nearly $14 million in federal funding to help assist counties with the cost of replacing the machines; and the state was required to match five percent of that allocation.

Counties were able to choose from a list of machines that has been certified by the state as meeting requirements. The machine to be used in Susquehanna County in the Primary Election does not store the votes, but rather, it produces a paper ballot.

One audience member asked if he could take a copy of his voted ballot home with him from the election, with the answer to that as a “no” and noting that voters do not take a copy of the paper ballot that has been used in the past home with them.

In addition to the machines, Hall said additional staff will be added at the polling places, including the addition of older high school students.

Provisional ballots will be available at polling sites; and he noted that voters can take advantage of the mail-in option for voting which goes into effect this year.

He also said that the new machines are being calibrated and tested in the county. Members of the maintenance staff will be meeting with the Judge of Elections at the polling stations and the site needs are documented. The employees will also be verifying that outlets are in working order and taking measurements, if needed.

The Election Board, with members of the 2019 board also at the table, met to clean up records from meetings held during the year. In 2019, with county commissioners on the ballot and unable to be on the board, the election board was comprised of members appointed to serve in the positions.

Absent from the election board meeting was Commissioner Hall. Hall is running as a Republican delegate and his name will appear on the ballot.

Audience member Edna Paskoff rejected Hall’s reason for not serving on the board. She argued the delegate post was a party position and not a public office. “That’s a baloney story,” she said.

As errors in the 2019 board’s meeting minutes recently came to light, the records were reviewed and the Feb. 12 meeting agenda served to correct and reflect official actions taken by the board.

Items approved Wednesday, include the approval of minutes from the March 28, 2019 meeting that had not been approved and documenting what had taken place at the meeting, including a motion to forward a complaint received by the board to the District Attorney’s office.

Actions taken at the May 24, 2019 election board meeting were also revised; minutes from the June 3, 2019 meeting were approved; actions taken at the Sept. 17, 2019 and Nov. 8, 2019 meetings were revised; as were actions taken at the Dec. 4, 2019 meeting.

The minutes of the Jan. 22 election board meeting were amended, as a motion to review the 2019 minutes was not made by a current sitting member of the board but a member who served in 2019.

The change reflected that Commissioner Judy Herschel motioned to look into the 2019 minutes and report findings with corrections.

The corrected minutes will be attached to the prior records.

The board said that steps are being recommended to make sure this situation does not happen again and the are confident the result will be a smooth election cycle.

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