A Milford resident questioned the Pike County Commissioners, June 7th, about the adequacy of voting precincts, citing both Pennsylvania Election Code and the observation that on presidential election years, voters in some sections have had to wait in line two hours.
MILFORD - A Milford resident questioned the Pike County Commissioners, June 7th, about the adequacy of voting precincts, citing both Pennsylvania Election Code and the observation that on presidential election years, voters in some sections have had to wait in line two hours.
Solicitor Thomas Farley replied that the County is abiding by the law, but he would research the statutes.
During Public Comment, Reggie Cheong-Leen raised the issue, stating that code says the maximum number of registered voters per precinct shall not exceed 1,200 (as shown in Article V, Section 502).
“Out of our 18 precincts, 11 are over that,” Cheong-Leen said.
Note: A check with the Pike County Election Office showed that as of May 16, 2017, there were actually 13 precincts that exceeded 1,200 registered voters. The only ones NOT exceeding 1,200 were Matamoras 1 & 2; Milford Borough; Porter; Shohola and Westfall.
The section reads, in part: “… Except for good cause shown, election districts so formed shall not contain more than one thousand two hundred (1,200) registered electors…”
He then noted that the code states (Article V, Section 530b) that no less than one voting machine must be supplied for every 600 registered voters.
“In some places you must wait two hours to vote,” he said, adding that this will discourage people from voting. It was his suggestion that in cases like that, poll workers should go down the line and hand out paper ballots to expedite the process. “I think that would… give people a chance to vote instead of walking away and saying I can’t wait two hours in line.”
Chairman Matthew Osterberg pointed out that they cannot just pass out paper ballots in line, because a person’s eligibility to vote must be verified. Commissioner Steve Guccini added that the law requires a county to either use electronic voting or paper, and not both. The County changed to electronic voting several years ago.
The chairman further made it clear that the only time there is an issue with long lines is every four years- when there is a presidential election. “This Primary Day you could vote in Milford Borough in two minutes,” he said.
They have discussed adding more machines, Osterberg said, but not only is this an expense, the County has a difficult time finding enough poll workers. He said the Commissioners are not opposed to adding machines, but pointed out, this is only an issue every four years.
To this, Cheong-Leen replied, “This is the law. It’s a form of voter suppression if you don’t comply with the law.” He added, “Just because you have a problem only every four years, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a problem.”
Assuring he would look into the matter, the solicitor added, “The County is always working to make sure that everybody gets a chance to vote.”
Lorna Cuevas, who was also in the audience, stated that she has been a poll watcher for approximately eight years. She lives in Lords Valley, Blooming Grove Township. She noted that at the presidential election last November, there was extraordinary attendance. “I felt sorry for those people,” she said of the poll workers, noting that they had no moment’s rest as the line was “an hour and a half - all day.” She said it was extremely well run, other than the long wait to vote.
Farley stated that their Chief Clerk, Gary Orben, tries hard to find volunteers for the poll places. Poll workers, he said, are there from 6 a.m.; polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The workers are still there, counting votes and sometimes aren’t done till 11 a.m. or midnight.
Although suggested that the workers be paid more, Orben added that the last time he checked, Pike County pays the most for poll workers in the state.
Farley stated that they will investigate the requirements of the law, and if needed, the County will get more machines.
Reggie Cheong-Leen, a local artist and co-owner of Forest Hall in Milford, is associated with the Delaware Valley Democratic Club.
The Pennsylvania Election Code is available for viewing as a .pdf at the state website, www.legis.state.pa.us/.
BY THE NUMBERS
This is the number if registered voters by precinct in Pike County, PA, as of May 16, 2017.
Source: Pike County Election Office.
Blooming Grove 3638
Milford Borough 836
Milford Township 1205
TOTAL REGISTERED: 40,499
Green Party 79
Libertarian Party 302