County commissioners group still eyeing election reforms

Election reform is moving forward in Pennsylvania, but the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) is looking into additional reforms.

The state has mandated counties adopt a voting system that provides a paper trail. Although funding was promised for up to 50 percent of the cost, that money has not been forthcoming.

Faced with a deadline of spring 2020, many area counties have purchased a state approved voting system. Clarion County has not.

Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan has said repeatedly the county doesn’t want to buy a voting system only to discover a flaw in the system.

Tharan recently attended the CCAP convention and returned with a resolution adopted by the organization to further refine the voting process. CCAP noted that while the state may dictate how elections are to be held, it is county government that actually conducts the election.

CCAP opposes authorization for curbside voting.

The association doesn’t believe curbside voting represents an equitable or viable alternative to full ADA accessibility requirements, nor can it be accomplished with the current staffing of most polling places.

The association also wants to expand the pool of people who work at the polls as it is difficult to find poll workers in many areas. CCAP wants to expand that pool by allowing government employees to be poll workers, except for those with conflict of interest as defined by statute.

The employees could take leave without penalty, whether paid or unpaid, to serve as poll workers.

CCAP’s elections reform committee supports changes in election law and practice that would reduce restrictions on the application for and use of absentee ballots.

That may include amending the state Constitution to eliminate all reasons or conditions necessary to qualify for an absentee ballot and permit any qualified elector to vote by absentee ballot without excuse.

The CCAP wants to defer questions of Electoral College reform to the national level but provide for greater access to the ballot for minor political parties and political bodies.

CCAP also proposes making the requirement of newspaper advertising for the election proclamation discretionary, allowing counties instead to place the notice on the county website or other electronic publication.

The association is proposing that for municipalities with fewer than 100 registered voters, the county be permitted to provide voters in those precincts to cast their ballots exclusively by mail.