Luzerne County Councilmen grill Board of Elections over unreceived ballots

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Tension is rising between departments of Luzerne County government as election day closes in.

Wednesday night’s Board of Elections meeting began with two county councilmen grilling the board on their handling of this year’s election. But is the board falling short, or is the postal service to blame?

Tensions have been high since yesterday, when a lawyer representing Luzerne County filed a Supreme Court motion and named the Board of Elections as a respondent. The meeting got off to a fiery start when Councilman Walter Griffith confronted the board about why some people have still not received their ballots and why the director was absent.

“Highly disappointed with Bureau of Elections this year. I think it’s the worst we’ve ever seen in the history of Luzerne County,” Councilman Stephen Urban said.

During public comment at Wednesday’s Board of Elections meeting, Urban and Griffith brought up concerns with possible voter disenfranchisement at the hands of the Bureau.

“What is going on at the Bureau of Elections for people who are being disenfranchised, that cannot get a ballot,” Griffith said.

Urban asked why ballots are not being processed in a 48-hour window, as required by law.

“Their ballot application was processed on the 16th, it was mailed out on the 21st. I contacted them today it’s already Wednesday the 28th, the mailman was actually at their house when I was on the phone and they still have not received it,” Urban said.

While Urban and Griffith blame the Bureau for the outstanding ballots, Councilwoman Sheila Saidman blames the postal service.

“They have been deliberately cut by the Republicans. My mail used to be delivered at noon. It is now delivered after 6 at night,” Saidman said.

According to the Associated Press: in Wilkes-Barre, during the week of October 10th, USPS delivered 79.6 percent of first-class mail on-time compared to the national average of 85.7 percent.

But Griffith points to the backlog of ballots that the Bureau has yet to process, including his own. He also says for some people, voting by mail is their only option..

“They’re trying to get through to the Bureau of Elections and nobody answers the phones, the box is full and they can’t come in,” Griffith said.

Pete Oulette says the Bureau is having issues with the post office.
Members of the board said they’re doing the best they can under difficult circumstances. Councilwoman Linda Houck recognized the board for performing a “thankless job.”

Another issue brought up in the meeting was: why campaign finance reports are not listed on the county website. There is an election inquiry meeting tomorrow where Urban says he plans to ask “very tough questions”.

The Associated Press reports 1 million ballots still outstanding in Pennsylvania.

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