Lucerne County mail-in ballot return rate questioned

The Luzerne County Electoral Council plans to randomly interview some of the thousands of voters who did not return the November 2 general election ballots, even though they were recorded as having requested and received them.

Board chairperson Denise Williams proposed the effort at Monday’s board meeting to identify some reasons for the lack of response from voters, saying it is a “large number” and a “big question mark” for her.

The county election office said it sent out 25,112 mail-in ballots, but Williams said only 18,250 were returned and counted before the 8 p.m. election day deadline.

Another 458 mail-in ballots arrived after the deadline, and 269 voters on the mail-in ballot list voted on provisional ballots at polling stations on November 2, saying they never had received their postal ballots.

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That leaves about 6,135 voters who presumably received but did not return the mail ballots, Williams said.

“Why would that be? ” she asked.

After the list was given to council, Williams suggested that each of the five volunteer members of the electoral council contact 20 to 30 of the recipients of the November 2 mail-in ballot to inquire about the reasons why their ballots were not missing. been deposited.

Some board members questioned whether this rate of return was unusual and asked Deputy Chief Electoral Officer Eryn Harvey to compile the same statistics for previous elections.

According to previously released reports, the county issued 23,209 mail-in ballots for the May 2021 primary elections and ended up receiving around 17,000.

Harvey reported on Monday that 772 returned ballots in the mail had not been counted in the May primary because they arrived after the deadline. That brings the unreturned number to around 5,400, although any provisional ballots cast by postal voters should still be deducted.

Of the hundreds of mail-in ballots that arrived after the two-election deadline, Williams said the number “bothers me a lot.”

Williams said the county should make an effort to send the ballots earlier, saying it is doing a “disservice to the citizens” by leaving too little time for the ballots to be sent to voters and returned. .

“We have to do better than that,” she said.

Also linked to the mail ballots, the council reported that 5,403 voters used a drop box for their return at the November general meeting.

Most – 3,842 – were in the county’s Penn Place building in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Distribution to the other three drop-box locations: Pittston Memorial Library, 884; Wright Township Volunteer Fire Department, 362; and Hazleton Town Hall, 315.

New director

Board members await the hiring of a new electoral director to push for the implementation of three remaining directives intended to improve elections.

These guidelines involve written election protocols and procedures, website improvements and job descriptions for all election workers.

Vice-chairman Richard Nardone said the board decided these actions were “extremely important” and suggested that board representatives meet with the administration to ensure they are considered by the board. new director.

Acting county manager Romilda Crocamo said Monday evening she plans to meet with the electoral board behind closed doors soon to discuss hiring the director and hopes to make an announcement on her selection by the end of the election. week.

The county director selects the chief electoral officer, but must seek the advice of the electoral board.

Crocamo also said she has documented at length the areas the new director needs to address based on observations before, during and after the general election.

Previous returning officers, Bob Morgan, left for another job on October 8 after six months on the job.

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