Complaints mount, suits threatened after election
As the complaints about voting issues on Nov. 5 continue to pile up, several county Republican organizations in the Times News area are taking or contemplating taking legal action to question results.
Hundreds of complaints have been fielded in the four of five Times News counties where new voting machines were used for the first time. The issues range from mechanical malfunctions of the machines to human error on the part of poll workers who many believe were not adequately trained.
Schuylkill County was the only local county where new machines were not used, so while election officials there got a free pass this election cycle, there is concern that the county’s first encounter with new machines during the 2020 primaries will lead to the same kind of problems that the other four counties experienced on Nov. 5.
Schuylkill is one of 22 counties which did not use new voting machines earlier this month. At least one of the others is having second thoughts. Dauphin County Commissioner Michael Pries, who watched the chaos unfold in some of the counties where new machines were used, said his county is “comfortable” with the machines that have been in use and may decline to get new ones.
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Pries said. He added that Dauphin’s machines are fundamentally sound, trustworthy and, best of all, can’t be hacked. I spoke to Frannie Brennan, director of the Bureau of Elections in Schuylkill County, who said there are no plans that she is aware of to reconsider buying new machines.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Carbon County Republican Committee have asked the courts to stop the manual hand count underway until some issues are resolved. One of the key problems was when a pair of candidates were omitted from the ballots of Lower Towamensing and Mahoning townships and data had to be reloaded.
This led to a technical error which cascaded down the remainder of the ballot, election officials said. There were concerns that the results reported on election night were inaccurate, especially in municipal and school board races.
After rescanning results, officials posted revised figures that Wednesday morning which they believed to be accurate but still unofficial.
In Northampton County, during the postelection canvass it was discovered that more than 200 votes in Lower Saucon Township were not counted because cast ballots were inadvertently placed by a poll worker into a wrong box.
While this might have implications in the township council race, it presumably will not change the outcome in the county’s judicial or district attorney races, according to county Executive Lamont McClure. Despite this and Election Day snags, McClure said he can assure county voters that this was a “legal, fair, and accurate election.”
Previously, the county had to deal with the problem that no votes were showing for one of the three judicial candidates. As was the case in Carbon, the election night results were updated early Nov. 6 with corrected totals.
Northampton County Republican Chair Lee Snover said she is considering filing a suit challenging the results because of the number of problems which have shown up during and after the election.
On top of these major problems, the number of complaints about lack of privacy in filling out the paper ballots continue to rise in all four counties, including Monroe and Lehigh.
Some machines were out of commission for a few minutes or, in some cases, much longer. This led to long lines at some polling sites, causing some potential voters to throw up their hands in disgust and leave without casting their ballots.
My big concern is whether voters will lose faith in the process and whether this will affect their commitment to vote in the 2020 elections, which include the presidency, all 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and about one-third of the U.S. Senate.
As for solutions, here are Frassinelli’s fast five:
• Begin a massive education drive to encourage registered voters to cast their ballots by mail starting next year. New election laws going into effect will allow this, and it will shorten lines and take pressure off election officials.
• Initiate improvements to ensure that voters are casting secret ballots. From table setups to privacy curtains, to providing security envelopes for voters to use after marking their paper ballots, to preventing scanning machine attendants from glancing at ballots — these and other security measures key.
• Lose the Sharpies, bring on ballpoint pens. This will remove the concern that bleed-through will invalidate ballots once sent through the scanners.
• Retrain poll workers, including giving instructions, answering questions authoritatively and responding to issues rapidly and with clarity.
• Re-evaluate and certify the mechanical functionality of the new voting machines.
By Bruce Frassinelli | email@example.com