Tuesday, February 06, 2007

January 31 Minutes of Citizens Advisory Commitee

In conjunction with
Voter’s Registration Office

Meeting Minutes (Revision)
January 31, 2007 – 7:00 PM

The scheduled meeting of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee was held at 7:00 p.m., on January 31, 2007, in the County Council Room #307.

Welcome – Margaret “Peg” Ferraro
Ms. Ferraro welcomed the committee, Mr. Conklin, Director of Administration, and all participants for attending the second meeting of the committee.

Roll Call
Mr. Conklin gave the roll and the following committee members were present:

Margaret “Peg” Ferraro Russell Shade Greta Browne
Jack Bradt Richard Benner

Approval of Minutes
Ms. Browne noted that her last name is spelled with an “e” at the end.
Ms. Browne suggested that the minutes include comments made by the committee members.

On a motion by Mr. Benner, seconded by Mr. Shade, the minutes were unanimously approved, noting the correction and suggestion.

Courtesy of the Floor
Ms. Ferraro acknowledged the public and accepted comments. There were no comments at this time.

Old Business

Packet of Information from Deborah DePaul
In the absence of Ms. DePaul, Ms. Ferraro advised that any discussions or concerns be addressed at the next meeting when Ms. DePaul would be present. However, Ms. Ferraro mentioned that the information in the packet gave a great deal of insight into the problems facing voters throughout the country as a result of the “Help America Vote” Act.

Committee Meeting Issues
Ms. Ferraro suggested that each subsequent meeting have a specific agenda such as:
voting machines at one meeting, another meeting for discussing the “office” itself.
Ms. Browne commented and discussed her concern regarding interviewing and surveying members of the election commission, county council, and members of the

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staff and chairpersons of the political parties as suggested by Mr. Stoffa at the last meeting. Ms Browne’s suggestion was that the committee would arrange for personal interviews with those people mentioned and advise the public of these interviews, however, without jeopardizing the confidentiality of the interview. After each personal interview, if the person consents, they would either attend the committee meeting in person or send a written statement.

In reference to Ms. DePaul’s absence from the meeting, Mr. Conklin mentioned that he would have staff attend if given specific direction and advance notice from the Committee chair for scheduling purposes.

Mr. Bradt expressed the need for the Voter’s Registration Office member(s) to attend the meetings. There are questions only that office can provide in reference to the packet of information Ms. DePaul provided. One issue is the “wireless” voting machines which were originally proposed. They were disallowed by State mandate. Mr. Bradt posed a question as to why they were not allowed to be used. Also, did that have any effect on the results of the last election?

New Business

Election Machines
Ms. Ferraro, after reviewing information in the packet, noted that a Committee was formed to determine what type of machine to be chosen. A wireless machine feature was their choice, but according to the laws of Pennsylvania, it was deemed illegal. “What was the time period in learning of this law in relation to the election date?”

Representative of the Election Commission, Mr. Walter Garvin, Chairman.
Mr. Garvin addressed the Committee.

The committee organized to review and decide which machine to purchase, could not submit an order for the machine they wanted until the Department of State completed the certification process which did not take place until a very late date. The State ultimately did not certify the wireless machine. One of the reasons, as stated by Mr. Garvin, was that information on the wireless machine could be very easily corrupted (counterfeit access even from another room/building) which was determined by one of the state’s consultants, a computer professor from the University of Pittsburgh. Because of this delay, the Committee was required to order a different machine.

Ms. Ferraro inquired as to the role of the Election Commission Board.
Mr. Garvin noted that it oversees the personnel office and its daily activities. If any problems of the office occur it is brought before the Board. They also certify the results of the elections.

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Mr. Garvin noted that to certify the votes, the Commission meets after the official vote has been tabulated. The Commission meets four times a year but because of mitigating circumstances, it was necessary to meet more frequently this past year.

In regard to tabulation of votes, Mr. Garvin noted that the machine has an electronic as well as a paper trail record. As a precaution, the paper cannot become a receipt to be given to the voter since the receipt would have the capability to be used as a counterfeit vote.

Mr. Conklin inquired about the USB’s and the issue of inserting them into the mainframe. How are the votes that were not legible handled? Could that be a reason for the confusion in the tally at the last election?

Mr. Garvin could not specifically explain how these kinds of illegible votes were handled and but could be better answered by a computer technician.

Mr. Garvin attended training sessions before the election, which comprised of young and older voters. The opinions expressed by these voters after use was that they found it simple and easy to operate and there were no complaints.

Mr. Benner would like to have the machine at the next meeting along with the representative from the manufacturer, ABS. The Committee members agreed.

Ms. Ferraro raised concerns about the Voter’s Registration Office in reference to the number of staff to handle the busiest times, she expressed concern about the staff being well trained, especially, for voter absentee ballots, and are they comfortable in their responsibilities, and is the office user-friendly, especially for new candidates.

Mr. Benner inquired about the training of the staff and how it was done. Is there a large turnover in this office?

Ms. Browne inquired if the Election Commission is involved in the hiring of the personnel.

Mr. Garvin noted that the applications for the appointment of a new Chief Registrar were forwarded to the Commission and reviewed after which interviews and recommendations were handed to County Human Resources. Staff members of the office are done strictly through Human Resources.

Mr. Bradt made mention that the purpose of this Committee is to address complaints, as directed by County Executive John Stoffa. Mr. Bradt would like to prioritize these complaints. Why were the voters so dissatisfied?

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Ms. Browne explained that she has outlined all the issues she is aware of. A copy of these issues was given to everyone.

Voter Registration
o Driver License registration and change of state

Pre-election Outreach
o Absentee ballots

Candidates and Campaigns
o Voter Lists
o Filing Dates and info

Election Day
o Poll workers: training and support
o Machines
· Privacy
· First screen – straight party
o Absentee ballots
o Provisional voting
o Paper trail

Election results

Voting machines
o Wireless features

Mr. Garvin mentioned that this was not his perspective since he did not receive any complaints. Contrarily, he received very positive reaction from the last election. He mentioned that the only problem he heard was concerning residents who registered through PennDot and when they went to vote they became aware that they were not registered at all and the County never received any information about the “voter”.
Ms. Ferraro explained that concerns surrounded the issue of the “straight party” ticket and set up of the computer screens. “Why can’t we see all the names of all the candidates on the first screen.”

Mr. Garvin: The state mandates that a voter have the option of a “straight ticket” vote.

Mr. Bradt expressed his concern over the issue of “Confidentially” when voting and having the machines in an area where others are not able to see while you’re voting. This is of major concern for voters.

Ms. Ferraro inquired whether the machines are being made available in senior centers, libraries, schools, and community centers so that they can be used for training?
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Mr. Garvin said that there has been training at senior centers and malls; also the Commission is working with the League of Women Voters. Also, training is available on the website to some extent. The information related to the machines is going to be online for the next election.

Ms. Ferraro asked if schools are being allowed to perform “mock” elections on the new voting machines?

Question and Answer Period was closed and the Committee Members extended thanks to Mr. Garvin.

Mr. Conklin addressed Mr. Benner advising that the Assistant Solicitor assigned to Voter’s Registration, Christopher Spadoni, has also expressed interest in attending the Committee meetings.

Ms. Browne Joan Rosenthal critiqued the organization, spelling and use of language in the letters being sent out of the Voters Registration office. Letters were not dated. Her concern related to the representation of the County to the voters. Ms. Browne expressed her desire to have more meetings, especially, before the next election. She also would like to have an accounting of the staff’s employment in that office, i.e., new employee, employee leaving, etc.

The Committee agreed that good public relations are the key to a smooth election process.
Mr. Bradt also noted that in his opinion, there is very good work being done in the Voter Registration office.

Ms. Ferraro concurred with Ms. Browne that a letter composition should be properly written according to the rules set by the English grammar, spelling, and language guidelines.

Courtesy of the Floor
Bernie O’Hare, Nazareth PA:

Problems relating to the new election machines by voters are being heard by the Federal government and there is legislation that will create changes. In his opinion, even if there were old lever machines being used, there would have still been problems with the last two elections. Mr. O’Hare feels that the Voter’s Registration office is not user-friendly and creates problems
related to the elections. He expressed disappointment in the fact that absentee voters did not have time to submit their ballot. Also, training time, to learn how to use the machines was not sufficient. In an explanation of a “Provisional Ballot” Mr. O’Hare described, came out of the “America Vote” Act, people were sent away at the polls and not allowed to cast a “Provisional Ballot”. His example was of a woman, a foreigner, who is an American citizen who moved and changed her voter’s registration status to the municipality she was living and when she went to vote with her daughter and husband, who were also registered voters, found out that she was not registered with that municipality, even though they were. She was not allowed to cast a “Provisional Ballot”. Mr. O’Hare stated, “That this is the fault of the Elections Office”. Mr. O’Hare also stated that people were not able to speak to anyone at the elections office on the day of the election to answer questions and provide information. Mr. O’Hare also expressed concern about nepotism and other ethical issues he believes are occurring.

Mr. Failey, an elections poll worker from Forks Township expressed his concern about using personalities in discussions regarding issues of the election.

Mr. Conklin related that issues concerning problems with the email address would be addressed with the County IT department - resolved.

Mr. Stoffa reiterated that he suggests that a one-page survey be conducted for people who ran for office. The question: “ How can the office do better?”

Mr. Stoffa discussed the process in purchasing the machines used in the last election. He described that eleven counties were in process of purchasing the AVS machines and later backed down. Lehigh County was one of them and went with a different manufacturer.

Mr. Stoffa expressed his concern regarding the next election and how we can improve on the next election.

Mr. Benner would like to have the machine and the Representative from AVS machines, Deborah DePaul, and possibly Howard Erney here at the next meeting.

Next Meeting Date – Wednesday, February 7, 2007, 7:00 PM, Court Room #1.

Ms. Ferraro adjourned the meeting at 8:30 PM.


January 31, 2007


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