news 4 days ago

Local legislators trust system, but worry about issues with mail-in ballots

The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa. — Rick Dandes The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa.

Oct. 18-- Oct. 18--Valley legislators said Friday that locally they believe in the integrity of this election, and the transparency of local election officials.

But they do have some concerns about statewide mail-in ballots.

"I have complete faith in our local voter registration offices that are in my senate district," said Pa. State Senator John Gordner (R-27, Berwick).

"There were some issues in Northumberland County, prior to the primary because of turnover there, but commissioners have taken care of that and I am very comfortable with the team that is there now. In recent days I saw that they are hiring part-time folks to help, which is good."

There have been some statewide issues with absentee ballot requests that have been rejected, he noted, "but that is largely because of duplicate ballot requests.

"What's happening statewide with a number of folks, is for the first time ever, the department of state had a check-off box where you could check it and agree to get all of your future ballots sent to you by mail," he said. "It looks like to a large degree, that is where the issue has been. People checked that box in the spring, and then also sent in one of these forms that many people are receiving in the mail that people also send in for a ballot. And the second request is rejected. That's can be confusing if someone forgot they checked that box months ago.

Overall, Gordner said he is "very comfortable with the integrity of the vote in the Valley," he said.

Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108, Sunbury, said she is "always concerned that we have done a good enough job to make sure everything runs right. We have that new system that went into place in the spring and we got a lot of feedback from our election offices on changes they wanted made."

Culver has been in touch with her local election offices and "they are doing a really great job making sure that they are getting the mail-in ballots out and receiving them when they come back in. They are trying to make this as transparent as they can, she said.

"I can't speak about other election offices," Culver said. "I know there have been concerns raised that ballots might have been thrown away. In Pittsburgh, ballots were sent to the wrong area but locally I think we have it under good control."

Pa. House Rep. David Rowe, R-85, Lewisburg, has concerns as well, he said.

"The election reform bill that the legislature passed last year has been severely altered in its execution by Gov. Wolf and the state Supreme Court," Rowe said. "We are probably going to be witnessing an unprecedented level of chaos on election night. And days afterward as mail-in ballots that arrive late are counted with pre-paid postage, meaning there is no indicator of when they were mailed.

"So I have several concerns," he said. "About the integrity of our election in Pennsylvania because the many safeguards that were built in to the Republican Election Reform bill, passed by the legislature and signed by the governor have been stripped away by a Supreme Court that has clearly taken a more activist tack."

There are some pending federal cases, Rowe noted, "and the state Supreme Court has declined to hear such challenges but the federal cases brought by the Trump campaign and Pa. GOP are still pending."

But it's seventeen days before the election, Rowe said, "and the clock is ticking."

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