Anticipating an emotionally-charged atmosphere at polling places in the Nov. 6 presidential election, Carbon County commissioners want election judges and constables trained to defuse any possible flare-ups.
Commissioners will meet with elections director Lisa R. Dart to discuss the training.
The matter surfaced at an Election Board meeting Thursday when Commissioner William O'Gurek expressed concern over the already contentious presidential race, coupled with new voter identification laws and the confusion that surrounds them.
"I'm hearing there's going to be a lot of activity from various entities, regardless of party affiliation, challenging the validity of votes and voters," he said.
Election judges and poll workers need to be well-trained in the Voter ID law requirements, in the event that "poll watchers" interrupt the voting process to challenge peoples' credentials, O'Gurek said.
"I'm concerned about a lot of disruption in the process inside. I'm expecting a lot of people to be getting watchers certificates to be inside the polls," he said.
O'Gurek said election judges and poll workers need to know exactly what watchers are permitted to do, and what they are not allowed to do.
"We can't have a line of voters who have to show their credentials, and people sitting there as watchers questioning or interrupting the process," he said.
There has been confusion over the Voter ID requirements, he said. O'Gurek said a man who had moved from Nesquehoning to Jim Thorpe came to the election bureau to change his registration. There was a question over whether he would also need to have a new photo driver's license to comply with the Voter ID law.
Dart told the man the state does not require the driver's license address to match the voter registration.
Dart said the man does have to get a change of address card from PennDOT to show to poll workers.
"The name and the photo is what needs to match," she said.
Constables, too, need to be sure of their rights and responsibilities concerning activity outside polling places, to be sure voters are not intimidated or harassed.
Dart said poll workers have received detailed instructions from the state, but that she wants to meet with commissioners to discuss her ideas for further training.
Commissioner Tom Gerhard agreed that the training is needed.
"I know there are judges of elections out there who have been doing it for many, many years, and they are still confused. Everybody has to be brought up to par as to what's going on," he said.
In other Election Board business, Dart asked for and received approval to change the Kidder North polling place from the fire station to Golden Oaks Village, 3 Keystone Commons, White Haven.
It's a nicer place, there's parking and everything," she said.
Gerhard suggested the elections bureau also consider changing the East Side Borough polling place, which he described as "basically a garage."
Dart said the elections bureau was trying to move that polling place into Golden Oaks, but was told by the state that it could not be moved across municipal lines.
She said she would further explore the matter.