(11/2016) Are we there yet?
When I was a child, almost every Summer my parents would load all nine of us into the big blue VW bus and drive to visit our grandparents in Texas. This Presidential election is starting to feel like one of those drives. We would start off excited to hit the road, the luxury of staying in hotels, eating at diners, seeing new places, we
loved it. By the second day the hours started to drag, playing Eye Spy lost its luster, the seats that were comfortable became small and crowded. The final day became a test of survival and patience, then as always happens the choruses of, "Are we there yet?" began. Right now I believe every voter is saying, "Are we there yet?".
This year there has been an unprecedented (and some might say un-presidential) claim that our National election is rigged. Specifically, some areas of Pennsylvania will have high levels of voter fraud. That claim rings hollow in Adams County. These claims are calling into question the validity of elections in all areas of Pennsylvania. In
Adams County during the 28 years that our current director of elections has served there has never been a documented case of illegal voting. During a presidential year, it is easy to get the impression that voting in America is run by the federal government. The truth is that county commissioners serve as the county Board of Elections. So when someone claims that
the election is rigged in Adams County, they are specifically speaking to Jim Martin, Randy Phiel, and myself. While we oversee the election process, our County elections office of just two people (Monica Dutko and Angie Crouse) work year round make sure that voter rights are protected and our elections run as smoothly as possible. With each election since I took
office I have become better educated on the complexities and integrity of our election system. From the process of registering to vote to the final vote canvass there are checks and balances ensuring that our elections are sound.
The first part of securing the system is confirming a voterís identity when they register. This year that task has been monumental as over 6,000 people have either registered as new voters, changed address, or changed party. Over 3,000 of those came in the last few weeks before the deadline. Every single one of those applicants must provide
a valid Social Security Number or Pa driverís license. Each application must also contain a signature. It is the combination of voter ID and voter signature that serve as the primary lines of defense against voter fraud.
When a voter arrives at the polls, their identity is verified prior to being given a ballot. For a new voter, or one who has changed their address and is voting at the precinct for the first time, they must provide proof of their identity. This is most commonly done by providing a driverís license. All voters must also write their signature
in front of the election officials thus confirming the signature on file. This is a great verification process. In order to be fraudulent one must provide a valid ID at registration and then forge the signature on Election day. Not only is it tough to get away with this, but the penalties for voter fraud range from misdemeanors to felonies.
During the election voters will notice a group of people working in the polling site. These people have very specific roles to ensure that the election is fair. There is an elected Judge of Elections, a Minority and Majority Inspector, a few appointed clerks, often a Constable, and periodically a member of the County Board of Elections
(County Commissioners). Candidates and political parties may even appoint poll watchers to sit in the polling site to monitor the election. The intention of the Majority and Minority Inspectors is to make sure that there is an elected representative from the Democratic and Republican parties on site. In rare cases when both the Majority and Minority Inspectors are
from the same party, our director of elections makes sure that at least one of the appointed clerks is from the opposing party. This is one more layer to prevent voter fraud occurring from within the ranks of the elected officials. The Judge of Elections is the final arbiter of all disputes at the polling site and in the past 28 years there has never been a
significant disagreement in our countyís polling sites.
Another place fraud has been alleged is within the voting machines themselves. Not here! Our machines are kept in a secure location all year long and are never connected to the internet. This goes the same for the election computers used to verify ballot counts. At no time are any voting machines left unsecure or vulnerable to a physical or
cyber breach. While using computerized systems have helped to speed up elections, they also require specific steps to ensure their safety.
At 8:00 PM on November 8th the election will be over and the counting will begin. From the time a voter votes until the time the vote total is sent to the Pennsylvania Department of State, the ballots and all voting materials are under the constant watch of election staff. Likewise all provisional and remaining absentee and unused ballots
are secured until the final canvass a few days after the election is over.
"Are we there yet?"
This year as in all Adams County elections, I am not concerned about voter fraud. I am concerned that passions are high and patience is low. Please be mindful of this when you vote. The staff and elected officials at the polling site are there to help you and will be working all day guaranteeing a fair and open election. Each and every one
of them takes their jobs seriously. Iím proud of our system and the people that make it a success. When you arrive at your polling site, relax, thank the people out front making last ditch efforts for their candidate, thank the staff in the polling site, then put on the "I Voted" sticker and be proud that you performed your civic duty.
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