AN URGENT CALL TO PENNSYLVANIA CITIZENS AND JUDGES OF ELECTION
A CHALLENGE TO BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES AND COUNTY ELECTION OFFICIALS
STAND FOR LAW ... STAND FOR ONE MACHINE DOWN & USE OF EMERGENCY BALLOTS IF NEEDED
BE A CITIZEN OBSERVER & REPORTER
Today the campaigning ends and it is the people's turn. Not only must we vote but also we must be guardians of the election process!
We in Pennsylvania will be voting on the highest number of paperless touchscreens in the country. No way to prove the original intent of the voter, no way to do meaningful recounts. This is what we must deal with for now but there are steps within our control.
One of the most important is to see that every registered voter is able to vote.
Among the hurdles is the impact of a single voting machine breakdown. We saw many such happenings in the primary. Long lines forming and citizens leaving because they had jobs or family obligations and were unable to wait hours.
Today, turn-out should be a record yet most counties have inadequate number of machines, having over estimated voting capacity and under estimated turn-out, further exacerbated by not figuring in the many new voter registrations.
Recently, several groups successfully challenged an ill-advised directive issued by Pennsylvania Secretary of State, Pedro Cortes. The original directive stated that emergency paper ballots MUST be offered if ALL voting machines are down in a polling location. The Court found for the litigants and the directive was changed to 1/2 machines inoperable or malfunctioning to require paper emergency ballot availability.
This was a positive step. Unfortunately both major political parties plus counties are reading this as LAW and the determining decision...the only option
IT IS NOT!
It is neither law but simply a directive/guide nor the only decision/option....and certainly not the best decision in the face of a machine break-down.
First, a directive does not rise to the level of a statute or law. It is more a strong recommendation and many counties have often made decisions on voting which vary from directives.
Second and most important: Pennsylvania already has two important LAWS which should be the first line of decision making as well as protection for voting rights.
1- By law, Judges of Election are required to "maintain order" in/outside the poll, this is interpreted as including line control and ensuring voters are able to vote
2- By Law,
Statute in the election code ( 3031..20) Section 1120-A says:
(b) “If any electronic voting system or any component thereof being used in any election shall become inoperable during such election, it shall, if possible, be repaired or another machine substituted by the custodian or county board of elections as promptly as possible , for which purpose the county board of elections may purchase as many extra systems or system components as it may deem necessary, but in case such repair or substation cannot be made, paper ballots , either printed or written and of suitable form, may be used for registering votes.”
The critical word is MAY! This statute gives legal authority for issuance of emergency paper ballots with one machine down.
If you put the two laws together, it certainly seems clear that if a single machine break-down disrupts order by costing voters to leave or undue burden of long lines to form, the judge of election should immediately act to request in accordance with sworn duty and the above statute that emergency paper ballots be permitted to citizens. Counties should back the request and political parties should take whatever action is necessary to see that the law is followed....fast!
Why would Democrats and Republicans plan to follow just the directive and wait till 1/2 the machines go down?
Why won't they stand first for the people?
Why would election officials not put voters first.?
Do all back the reported sentiment of the Philadelphia' Deputy Commissioner: "a long line is not justification for anything except waiting." Sorry, Mister Commissioner, a long line in an election is a disservice to voters and dereliction of duty, if that long line and possible chaos could have been avoided.
So, we challenge both parties and election officials to stand for the people ... and not make them stand unnecessarily or even lose their vote because you chose to follow the last resort directive instead of the first and preferable line of support and LAW... one machine down and call for emergency paper ballots (counted on election night) if it appears that machine inoperation is causing or will cause problems.
Many polls have three or more machines...with three being a common number. Why should citizens have to wait till 1/2 machines go down? We have a law - implement it for one machine down.!
It may be up to citizens to raise their voices and call for emergency paper ballots if ONE machine is inoperable or malfunctions. Put the spotlight on any such occurrence. Ask the Judge of Election, the Board of Election, your political party representative to take appropriate and LEGAL action before things really worsen and lines become overwhelming with citizens deprived of vote.
Take your cell phone with you to the polls. Observe what is happening. Be a Citizen Reporter, let government, political parties and voting protection groups know of problems, concerns, questions.
You can make a difference - if you contribute to voting oversight. Report problems/concerns or questions to National Voting Hotlines: 1-866-OUR-VOTE and 1-866-MY-VOTE-1. Our Coalition for Voting Integrity hotline is 215-589-1930 (data will be forwarded to national bases)
Abraham Lincoln stated: "Elections belong to the People. It is their decision". Make it our decision by voting and being a citizen observer/reporter... especially raise your voice if a single machine goes down and demand that that emergency paper ballots be issued if even one machine is inoperable. Honor the law that exists! If we don't take responsibility, some voters may be deprived of voting. We will end with the rest of Lincoln's remark: " If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” Personally, that’s a fate I choose to avoid.
Mary Ann Gould
Coalition for Voting Integrity
"Voice of the Voters!" Radio & Internet
Co-Founder of the Coalition for Voting Integrity. Host of "Voice of the Voters! Radio & Internet. Nationally recognized expert in Quality, Process improvement and Change Management. Associate of the late Dr. W, Edwards Deming. Speaker/seminars at (more...