Sunday, May 13, 2007

No room for countywide mailing to confirm voters valid

Seeing red, green, blue, purple, orange... valid registered voters? In Fayette County, there's taxpayers' money to keep a ferry boat running, but not for purging the local voter registration database of invalid electors. There's taxpayers' monies available for fees for tourism promotion but not for checking whether individuals whose names remain on the voter registry have moved and no longer reside in the county.

It's the obligation of elected county commissioners who comprise the county voter registration commission to ensure an accurate voter registration database.

The Ferry Boat isn't a constitutional duty of the board of commissioners. Overseeing the accuracy of the voter registration list is.

No room in the budget of Fayette County for commissioners to ensure a valid registry of voters $50,000 plus for tourism and so-called regional economic development agencies

Ferry Boat costs big bucks (counties tax monies go to maintenance)

Funds to encourage "ridership"

Meeting minutes

Bidders wanted for ferry service
April 25, 2007

The Fayette County commissioners voted Tuesday to seek bids for the five-year inspection and dry dock service of the Fredericktown Ferry, which transports passengers between Fayette and Washington counties ...

Fayette lacks funds to cull registration roll
By Chris Foreman
Sunday, May 13, 2007

Before last fall's election, Fayette County Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink broached the topic of inaccuracies in the list of registered voters after hearing comments from candidates, party committee members and poll workers.

Beyond that, the election bureau scans obituaries in local newspapers and collects information from precinct judges about citizens who might have moved, Fayette Election Director Laurie Lint said.

The Department of State also advises that counties may implement an annual confirmation mailing program by sending a notice to all registered voters.

But Fayette commissioners have never found room in the general fund for that expense.

On her Net the Truth Online blog, Dee Young said she "almost jumped out of her seat" on March 22, when Fayette County Judge Steve P. Leskinen concluded after a four-day election challenge that the county should update its registration rolls.

Young, of Uniontown, has been questioning the accuracy of voter databases for more than a decade.

The political activist also served a term on the county's voter fraud committee before a 1999 grand jury issued its recommendation for a purge after the indictment of former U.S. Rep. Austin J. Murphy and two others for voter fraud at a personal care home.

Fayette's rolls again came under inspection this spring after incumbent Controller Mark Roberts challenged hundreds of signatures on the petitions of his Democratic primary opponent, Sean Lally.

Leskinen and Commonwealth Court Senior Judge Joseph F. McCloskey ruled that Lally had enough signatures to stay on Tuesday's ballot.

In an interesting snag, Leskinen refrained from ruling on several women's signatures because of the possibility they might have married or moved since they registered but failed to inform the county.

The Pennsylvania Voter Registration Act permits valid signatures by persons who have moved or married, or both, since the November 2004 election, even if they haven't filed a registration change, according to Leskinen's written opinion in the case.

The exception is if the citizen already has voted once since moving.

"I think that is unfortunate," Leskinen wrote. "I think that the database should be upgraded so that married names and addresses are updated more rapidly, but that requires the expenditure of money that the county evidently does not have."

Young, who resigned in 2004 after serving as Zimmerlink's administrative assistant for nine months, argues that a lack of resources is a poor excuse by the county.

"Because we cannot be assured that the database is indeed accurate, the potential exists for abuse," Young said in an interview.

After the grand jury's findings, county officials estimated a mailing program would cost $20,000...


Friday, March 23, 2007
Fayette Judge: county voter database needs update

Thursday, March 22, 2007
Lally retains primary ballot access

Thursday, March 22, 2007
Names and Addresses of Voters Need Full Review

Southwestern Pa. counties lose residents, gain voters
By Chris Foreman
Sunday, May 13, 2007

If it weren't a trend throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania, Fayette County might have a bit of explaining to do.

After all, how does a county lose almost 3,000 residents since 2000, while its voter registration rolls balloon by more than 7,444 names?

But Fayette is not alone. Allegheny, Westmoreland, Indiana, Armstrong and Somerset are also among 35 counties statewide where there's an inverse relationship since the U.S. Census report of April 2000.

Election officials in the region say the swelling databases reflect the ease of registering at various state agencies and the restrictions placed on purging county rolls since the federal Motor Voter Act went into effect in 1995 and Help America Vote Act of 2002.

Fayette leaders insist they're following state and federal procedures to maintain their rolls, although they haven't budgeted for a direct-mail campaign that could identify problem registrations.

After a population upswing from 145,351 to 148,644 during the 1990s, Fayette's residency slipped to 145,760 through July 1, 2006, according to the March U.S. Census Bureau estimate.

The number of registered votes has ticked steadily upward, with 89,377 listed through the April 16 close of registration.

"I certainly want to keep them as accurate as possible, but there is a significant cost involved if you purge," said Commissioner Vincent Vicites.

Increases statewide

The registration figures continue to move up throughout the Keystone State.

Since April 2000, Pennsylvania has gained only 159,567 residents, but the Department of State reports a gain of 740,879 more voters as of last fall.

A county voter registration commission must mail a notice to any registered elector who hasn't voted or appeared to vote within a five-year period, according to state regulations. That name is then placed on an inactive list.

"The county (then) must wait for two federal general elections to remove the voter from the poll books," said Catherine Ennis, a state department spokeswoman. "If after nine years the voter does not respond and does not vote, he/she is removed from the poll books."

That leaves counties with a constantly changing population, like Indiana, with a slightly inflated list.

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