HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The November 8th general election is fast approaching, and unlike recent elections, voters in the Hazleton area will not have a ballot drop box available.
The location that had been used inside Hazleton City Hall can longer be used.
The ballot drop box in Hazleton had to be relocated inside city hall. It was in the basement, but city leaders say increased police activity in that part of city hall as well as increased use of the basement forced them to move the box to the first floor.
Luzerne County election officials say the new location does not meet its security requirements.
“It is a big concern for me. We are the second largest city in population in Luzerne County,” said Amilcar Arroyo, a publisher for El Menserjo Newspaper.
Arroyo is the publisher of the Spanish-language newspaper El Menserjo. He says the Hazleton area should have a ballot drop box.
“We are 20 miles away from Wilkes-Barre. People should have a place where they can drop off voting ballots if they are working, and don’t forget we have a lot of population of older people in Hazleton,” Arroyo tells the I-Team.
Officials at the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections said the proposed new location on the first floor of city hall did not meet the security requirements. Basically, there must be video surveillance at all times at all drop box locations and that video must be provided by the host location for the entire time it is set up.
County election officials tell Eyewitness News they had little time to react and find a replacement location. Reporter Andy Mehalshick spoke with Denise Williams, the chairperson of the election board.
“They reached out and found this out really close to the general election. It caught the election bureau by surprise but also the board by surprise because we have used that site for several elections no. This was the first we had heard,” Williams explained.
Eyewitness News spoke to Elaine Maddon Curry who is chairperson of the Hazleton Advisory Council of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. She insists that the lack of a ballot drop box is discriminatory to the voters in the Hazleton area.
“We felt very strongly that the minute that the county government saw there was no possibility for the use of the ballot drop box in city hall they needed to make a concerted effort to find a replacement,” Curry said.
Again, Luzerne County election officials say they did just that but were unable to find a suitable replacement location in the provided time. They have already begun working to find a location for the 2023 primary election.
There are four ballot drop boxes located in the northern part of the county. For more information on Luzerne County elections, head to Luzerne County’s website.