Unsolicited voting materials a growing concern in Lycoming County

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WILLIAMSPORT, LYCOMING COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Lycoming County officials are increasingly concerned about unsolicited voting materials being sent to area voters in advance of the upcoming election.

Commissioners say thousands of vote by mail applications have been sent out by both major parties, as well as political action groups, that are unsanctioned by the local office of voter services. This means people who have not requested a vote by mail application are receiving applications with their information already filled out.

Frustrated residents are now left trying to determine what’s official and what isn’t just 40 days out from the November election.

Director of Voting Services Forrest Lehman says it’s left voters uncertain of their registration status and destabilized confidence in both his office, and the voting process.

“If they have any doubts about their registration status, or an application they may have already submitted for an absentee or a mail in ballot, they should contact the county, rather than trust what they get in the mail,” Lehman said.

Lehman says official county applications would never be sent unless requested, and would always be sent completely blank.

Some of the applications received by residents have come with explicitly partisan messaging. Concerns are rising such overt politicism could cast doubt on the county’s impartiality.

“Voters should always be aware that if they receive material that has political content on it, that it did not come from a voter registration office. Because we’re neutral, we’re non-partisan,” Lehman said.

Similar frustrations are boiling over in Sullivan County, where Elections Director Hope Verelst says they’ve already received a record number of mail in ballot requests and the influx only clogs the system.

“Then they get a second application, and they think, ‘oh, I have to do this out again’ and they fill it out and we have to go through the process of looking to see if they already have an application on file, and it’s just added clerical work,” Verelst said.

Lycoming’s Chief Clerk Matt McDermott tells Eyewitness News say ultimately, voters themselves can make a difference.

“Our main mission for the Lycoming County Board of Elections is to ensure the integrity of the process. So to do so, we would ask folks to do their due diligence by looking at the materials they recieve in the mail,” McDermott said.

None of this is actually illegal. Officials say both major parties are complicit here in that they’re sending out legitimate applications pre-filled and often times tagged with partisan information to try and pressure them to vote.

Officials say it’s only slowed efficiency and led to confusion for the electorate.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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