Carbon judge to hear complaint over election hand count on Nov. 20
A Carbon County judge will not hear the Republican Party’s complaint against the hand count audit currently taking place as part of the canvassing until next week.
The hearing before President Judge Roger Nanovic is scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 20.
Lee Becker, chairman of the Carbon County Republican Committee, released a statement Tuesday afternoon, following the filing in the county Court of Common Pleas, explaining the committee’s action.
“The law stipulates the canvass is to start the Friday after election,” Becker said. “If there is a conflict, the election officials of the affected precincts are to be summoned to be part of the resolution. That did not happen because the canvass did not happen.”
On election night, a programming error caused the vote tallying system to not count votes for municipalities and school districts after Lower Towamensing Township.
The problem arose prior to the election, when it was discovered that two candidates — one in Lower Towamensing Township and one in Mahoning Township — had to be added to the ballots and voting system database after they had been overlooked. Both candidates were nominated to fill the vacancies of candidates who had died.
During the vote tallying, the election bureau realized the tabulations were not correct and officials worked through the night, recording the vote tallies from the tapes each precinct’s scanner printed and entering them into the system. A new report with final vote counts were released Wednesday.
On Friday, the Carbon County Election Board met and after much discussion and questions from candidates about if the vote counts were accurate, the board voted unanimously to complete both a complete hand count audit of the paper ballots and ask Dominion Voting Systems to bring in a high-speed scanner to do a rescan of all the ballots to verify that the system was functioning as it is intended and the counts released the day after the election were in fact correct.
According to the election law, the hand count audit must be done by county employees under the jurisdiction of the commissioners’ office and cannot be completed by a third, independent party.
Becker, Wallace Putkowski and Katie Kokinda, on Tuesday morning, filed a complaint against the election board and asked for an immediate halt to the hand count, which began Saturday, because, they say, the action was not allowable as part of the canvassing to certify the vote.
“The election law states that canvassing of the vote (check and recheck vote totals) should start the Friday after the election and proceed until complete. However, the board of election opted to circumvent the election law by ordering an intensive manual recount of all ballots,” Becker said.
“After the canvass is complete, if any candidate does not agree with the vote outcome, they may request a recount,” he added. “However, there is a cost attached to each precinct being requested recounted. At the present time the cost to ‘audit of ballots,’ which is in effect a recount, is being borne by the taxpayers of Carbon County, not any candidates.
“Additionally, at the election board meeting on Friday morning, a motion was made and unanimously approved to have Dominion personnel (the provider of the equipment) come and do an audit using a high-speed scanner. The election law does not allow other persons to touch the ballots.”
Becker said the trio filed the injunction and petition against the election board because they felt it was circumventing the law, adding that the committee does not have a problem with the employees counting the ballots or with Lisa Dart, director of elections.
“The Carbon County Republican Committee believes in the integrity of the new voting equipment,” he said. “The injunction seeks to have the election law followed in its entirety.”
Until the hearing, Commissioner William O’Gurek, chairman of the election board, said that the hand count will continue as scheduled.
O’Gurek, who did not seek re-election, also released a statement regarding the petition, and questioned the Republican Party’s action.
“So, in my mind, the real question is this — does the Republican Party want election results that are undisputed and accurate or not?” O’Gurek asked.
“Clearly, the election board members heard sufficient complaints and/or questions that dispute the accuracy of the election bureau’s compilation of each candidates’ total votes received. Those complaints ranged from individual vote totals initially reported and then changed, to even Sharpies bleeding through ballots. In those situations, some voters voiced concerns as to whether or not bleeding ink resulted in the improper recording of votes for other people.
“What I find interesting is one member of the Republican executive committee publicly spoke out at the election board meeting on Friday as being in favor of a hand count of the ballots. He even wanted to show a raise of hands as to who else was in favor of a hand count. The next morning, his signature was affixed to the petition to stop the hand count.
“Look, the three election board members want the public to be assured that the election results we will be voting to certify are accurate and undisputed. That’s something I believe the voters not only want, but deserve.”
The Carbon County Election Board will reconvene its meeting at 1 p.m. on Monday in the election bureau office for general purposes, a legal notice published in Wednesday’s Times News states.