Griffith’s ideas on poll watchers raise concerns


Luzerne County Electoral Board Chairperson Denise Williams said Thursday she was “very concerned” by County Councilor Walter Griffith’s recent comment on the organization of observers at the county mailing boxes.

Williams said that the Pennsylvania State Department’s guidelines for poll observers are readily available online and that poll observers and authorized representatives have no legal rights to observe or be present at any sites. designated return ballots “except to vote their own ballot or to perform expressly authorized personal tasks.” by the electoral code.

“Any organized or individual interference at a ballot box must and will be reported to law enforcement,” Williams said.

Williams also reiterated that the ballot boxes will be inside buildings, under video surveillance and containing visible signs informing voters they are under surveillance and prohibited from handing over anyone else’s ballot unless they are ‘they do not provide assistance to a disabled or urgently absent voter. Such third party deliveries require a declaration signed by the voter and the person providing assistance, she said.

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By comparison, some other states allow ballots to be cast by relatives or others, Williams said.

Griffith raised the issue during public comments at Wednesday’s electoral council meeting, but the council did not have a chance to discuss it publicly as the meeting was interrupted and postponed due to a technology glitch affecting virtual participants.

Republican candidate for county comptroller on Nov. 2 Griffith said he and others would be observing drop-box locations, and he sought legal advice from the county on monitoring drop-boxes.

“I think it’s something that as a candidate I have a right to be sure it’s a secure process,” Griffith told the board.

Griffith also told the board he believed observers “had the right” to ask voters if they had permission if they cast more than one ballot.

“If we don’t, we’ll have serious problems with these drop boxes,” Griffith said.

Contacted on Thursday, Griffith said Williams’ concerns were valid and stressed that there would be no interference with voters or obstruction from him or anyone involved in his campaign.

Griffith said he believes he and others from any political party should be allowed to observe inside the buildings, as these are facilities open to the public and already under surveillance. However, he said they will stand on the sidewalk outside to observe if a county legal opinion determines that access to the interior is not allowed.

If outside observation is needed, Griffith said he would keep an eye on voters carrying multiple ballots and possibly photograph or film them in case there is a way to verify their authorization.

He views the volunteer effort as a deterrent, saying some voters may assume that the video recordings will not be monitored and reviewed.

“They should be happy that we are doing this,” Griffith said.

The county’s four new letterbox-style drop boxes have arrived, but the electoral board has yet to decide where they will be placed before the general election on November 2. The Election Office has proposed the Pittston Memorial Library and Hazleton Town Hall and is reviewing options at Mountain Top and Back Mountain.

The county would also continue to offer a counter drop box at its Penn Place building in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

Board members wanted to switch to postal-style boxes inside out-of-county buildings because they are too heavy and cumbersome to steal.

Postal ballots should be sent to voters who requested them from the week of October 11.

Williams said there are many reasons why many voters prefer to use drop boxes to submit their mail-in ballots, including convenience, security, fear of their ballot being tampered with, lack of confidence in the mailing process and fear that their required signature on the outside of the envelope may be exposed.

Some voters also prefer to avoid polling stations due to COVID-19, have difficulty getting to polling stations on polling day due to work and other obligations or concerns, they may miss the deadline. ‘mail.

“Ballot boxes also minimize the number of voters at polling stations, reducing the time spent online for in-person voters,” Williams said.

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