Friday, March 02, 2007

February 28, 2007 Minutes For Citizens' Advisory Committee

In conjunction with
Voter’s Registration Office

Meeting Minutes
February 28, 2007 – 4:00 p.m.

The scheduled meeting of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee was held at 7:00 p.m. on February 28, 2007, in the County Council Meeting Room #307.

WELCOME – Margaret “Peg” Ferraro
Ms. Ferraro welcomed everyone to this meeting.

Roll Call

Mr. Conklin gave the roll and the following members were present:
Jack Bradt Russ Shade NOT PRESENT Greta Browne
Peg Ferraro Richard Benner

Motion to approve minutes from February 21, 2007. Motion seconded. Motion carried.

Courtesy of the Floor

Lawrence Otter, Esq. was present to represent Deb DePaul regarding statements made to the newspaper by panel members and members of the political parties. The process in Pennsylvania for electronic voting machines is outlined by state statute therefore issues should be addressed with the state legislature.

Committee does not want these meetings to become a confrontational forum. It is to be a support network to work through the various issues at hand.

The office previously conducted its own survey. Results were shared with the committee.

Straight party ticket issues, certification of the machines, and the counting of the votes were addressed.

A few people, including Elections Office staff and political party representatives spoke about how the office is run and how political parties are treated. Everyone needs to be treated equal.

Election calendar handed out with deadlines listed. Calendar should be available to the staff and anyone else who may want it. District maps with precinct boundaries either hardcopy or on line would be helpful, which is already in process. Thorough training of all staff is suggested.

Several Election Judges gave positive comments about Deb DePaul and the Elections office as well as the new system in general. John Stoffa was praised for putting leadership ahead of partisanship by forming this committee.

“Best Practices” can be attained by comparing the procedures and results of different counties. In comparison, Northampton County had a much larger margin of error than Lehigh County. Inaccurate counts were posted for 13 days. Ballot design, a discussion about where or not straight party voting is being “encouraged” as opposed to “available” by the first screen on the machine.

Past elections judges training new judges would be a benefit.

Old Business

Letter to Pennsylvania Department of State was distributed to the group. Suggestion to slightly change one of the words in the letter was made; change “assurances” to “documentation”.

Screen layout in Montgomery County shows all the candidates. Northampton County machines have a smaller screen so all the information does not fit on one screen. The committee will make a recommendation to have uniformity across the Commonwealth with regards to the machines and screen views. Deb will try to get as many screen prints as possible to distribute to the group.

Surveys suggestion. Use one as a general survey to be given to everyone (randomly selected voters) and one to be given to specific groups (election judges, parties, poll workers). A check box will be added to the survey to identify which group the individual is associated. Surveys will also be posted on the web for anyone who wishes to fill it out. Surveys will be mailed out early next week pending final approval from the Committee.

New Business:

Next Meeting: March 14, 2007 @ 7:00 PM, County Council Meeting Room 307.

Courtesy of the Floor

Prior to elections, both parties were notified that they may look at the machines. Last election, both parties signed off on the machines. County Executive should investigate what needs to take place in the Voter Registration office. Unofficial counts are just that, unofficial. With 149 Judge of Elections, each having 3 County Workers, there is opportunity for many different answers to the same question.

With 463 voting machines, it takes hours to check each counter and serial number on each of them. Machines are checked 7-10 days prior to Election Day to ensure counters are set to zero. Ballot design is also checked.

One of the Election Judges had an issue. Each individual machine totaled but once each USB was put into the master, it didn’t total. Additional staffing is needed during election times to handle issues that arise.

People need to know the Elections Office is there to help them. Neither AVS nor the Department of State have responded to any requests regarding the machines. The committee’s purpose is to make recommendations only.

Several election office workers spoke. The goal of the Committee and the Elections office should be to work together. Additional phone help is necessary. The S.U.R.E system is being utilized; more are needed to accommodate the incoming requests. The office would like to see signatures on the survey for validation.

Thanks you notes are sent to poll workers by the Elections office and the County Executive.

The letter going out to the State has a return reply requested and a reply date on it. A minor grammatical error on the letter will be corrected before it is sent out. Documents should be proofread before sent out.

Brief synopsis of the Election office was presented.

Recommendation for Counties to change their password each election was mentioned.

There is nothing in the letter from AVS that says the equipment was certified before the election. The County needs assurance the correct steps were taken, regarding machines, before the Election.

Meeting Adjourned.

Motion to adjourn, seconded, meeting adjourned at 9:20 PM.

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