Decision of the electoral committee annulled | News, Sports, Jobs
In a reversal of its decision last week, the county’s election committee voted to remove the referendum from the November ballot, which would have allowed voters to decide whether they wanted the county to continue using electronic voting systems. .
The action was taken after the State Department sent a letter, after the council’s last meeting, telling the county it had no authority to put the referendum on the ballot.
“Despite the strong emotions involved, the law clearly prohibits referendums regarding whether or not to use electronic voting systems,” says the state letter.
Citing a case from Westmoreland County, the state said the use of electronic voting systems “on the results of a referendum was prohibited by the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) which requires the adoption of electronic voting systems.”
The court determined that holding a referendum “Would directly undermine the goals of the HAVA legislation, including accessibility for voters with disabilities.”
The request to put the referendum on the ballot was made by a group of concerned citizens who stressed that the people should decide how their votes should be counted – by machine or by hand. The group had submitted petitions with approximately 3,400 signatures from county voters.
A spokesperson for the group, attorney Karen DiSalvo, said the referendum would allow the “People to decide if they should keep using machines or if they should go back to manually counting the paper ballots we already use.”
DiSalvo also accused the State Department of misinterpreting the law with respect to HAVA,” as well as the law in the case cited in the court ruling.
“If you mean Kuznik is championing the proposition that we no longer need to use a referendum to remove voting machines from our county, we don’t need people to vote on that in the county of Lycoming… well, you have a few alternatives,” said DiSalvo.
The county could withdraw the referendum and vote just to get rid of the electronic voting system or the county could continue with the electronic voting system which uses paper ballots which are then scanned for tabulation but follow that with a manual tally to see if the two numbers match. The vote count would not be certified before the two matches.
“If the number of hands matches the number of machines, that’s wonderful, wonderful. That’s our official tally. That’s all we want. We want transparency in our elections,” said DiSalvo.
DiSalvo urged the election committee to “Don’t let the State Department push you around.”
“This is yet another example of State Department bureaucrats trying to take power away from the people. Don’t let them. You weren’t elected to rule over us; you were elected to be our voices. », DiSalvo told the election committee, which is made up of commissioners.
Throughout Monday’s three-hour meeting, representatives from both viewpoints – those calling for getting rid of the electronic voting system and those in favor of keeping it – voiced their opinions and argued that the integrity of the election was a non-partisan issue.
Another spokesperson calling for a return to paper ballots, Jeff Stroehmann, said he felt it had been a community effort.
“I believe it brought our community together instead of pulling us apart. I think that should be the message today,” said Stroehmann.
“We believe voter confidence has been shaken and our efforts are to help the commissioners, to help the community, to find a solution that restores the confidence of our constituents in Lycoming County,” he said.
Another suggested solution to the problem was offered by local resident Bill Miele.
“What I’m suggesting to the commissioners is kind of a middle ground with what you see between the two sides,” Miele said.
“I hope we will all agree if something is on the ballot, we want to have an educated electorate, we want to understand what is involved. All the angles, how much is it going to cost, and the question is are we going to be able to do it in 58 days,” Miele said, referring to the run-up to Election Day.
“I would say that’s not really reasonable,” Miele added.
His suggestion was that the current electronic voting system be used in the next election and then manually count each vote to see if it matches what the machines have.
Recognizing that there could be a margin of error and that it would be up to the county to decide if they wanted to continue using the current system if both totals were within that margin.
“You may say that the margin of error is not enough to justify getting rid of the machines and going to the extra cost and all that that entails”, he said.
Some of those present at the meeting were election officials who praised the current voting system, saying the dual system of having a paper ballot that is then electronically tabulated offers backup records that are saved. While others were skeptical and suspicious of the system which they believed could be hacked.
In the end, the commissioners, Tony Mussare, Scott Metzger and Rick Mirabito, voted to remove the referendum from the ballot.
“We have to have confidence in our system and I have to respect the law,” said Mussare.
He explained that the commissioners sought legal advice after receiving the letter from the State Department to see what options were available. They were told that if they continued in court, they would not win.
“We would be wasting our money – taxpayers’ money”, he added.
“It would cost this county a substantial amount of money to lose. Our number one responsibility is to oversee the finances of this county. And I fully understand that election integrity comes first. Trust has been seriously breached,” he said.
“To have it on the ballot, the statute does not allow it. We will definitely lose the case – this comes from several lawyers. You are wasting money that we know we will lose in the long run. It is simply not good government. It’s not smart of us. That’s not why you put us here. he said.
“State law does not give county commissioners the right to put this on the ballot as a referendum,” said Mirabito.
“It would be irresponsible of us to go ahead with a court case just to say we’re going to retaliate and spend taxpayers’ money to fight a court case that we know of, based on a lawyer of several sources telling us we’re not going to win,” Mirabito added.