One thing that came out of the Luzerne County Election Bureau’s report to county council about the primary election in May is that the role of the board needs to be clarified.
At last week’s council meeting, Election Board Chairman H. Jeremy Packard addressed six problems in the most recent election, including: a non-existent elected official database in the bureau; miscommunication between counties in the Hazleton Area School Board election; candidate placement errors on the ballot in Lehman Township; and unsecured delivery of polling place supplies.
He also touted bureau achievements such as completing the first phase of constructing an elected official database; coding the electronic ballots in-house; and increased handicap accessibility at polling places.
“The 2013 municipal primary ran, overall, very well,” Packard said, noting that bureau director Marissa Crispell-Barber’s failure to notify Carbon and Schuylkill counties of the withdrawal of a candidate in the Hazleton Area race, neccesitating a court petition to have a re-election in those counties, was “the only significant problem.”
Councilman Stephen A. Urban called the board “one of the laziest” he’s seen, given all of the problems.
Councilman Stephen J. Urban suggested “the board cannot handle it and that some of you resign and we’ll put people in place that can manage the election process … more efficiently.”
Council Jim Bobeck asked the role of the board.
Packard said that, based on remarks from the Urbans, people have a misconception. He said the home rule charter “changed the entire concept of the election board.”
He said prior to County Manager Robert Lawton firing former election Bureau Director Leonard Piazza, “the Election Board would have been the one to fire because two (of the three county) commissioners were on (the board) until the home rule charter went into effect.”
Packard said the board discovered the board had “absolutely no power” after Piazza was fired and many references in state election law “essentially are null and void. … We’re not even really supervisory personnel.” He said the major role of the board is to certify the election and oversee aspects of it, “not to run the election or micromanage … and then to participate in going through the ballots that there are questions about.”
He suggested a council subcommittee meet with the board to discuss the issue. “You think we’re lazy. The reality is a lot of the things you would like us to do, we can’t do.”