Saturday, April 11, 2009

PA Access: Lehigh County: Resolution for Online Campaign Finance Report

Will wonders never cease? County commissioners are determined to require "all candidates for commissioner or county executive to file campaign finance reports in electronic form to be posted on the county Web site..."

Isn't this something that should be a no-brainer for all counties in Pennsylvania? While Lehigh may be a "Home Rule" County, obviously this is something not only they can do, but other counties as well, since Election Laws across PA are applicable to all jurisdictions.

Plus, the Primaries are political Party functions of the Republican and Democrat National and State political entities.

Unless there's a referendum question on the Primary Ballot, independents and Third Party registered voters are locked out of the Primary process.

In the November General Election in PA, all political party candidates who meet eligibility requirements of the state can throw their hat into the ring.

Our Fayette commissioners are unlikely to make a move on this issue anytime soon as they couldn't even demand the local Election Bureau immediately carry out the plan to begin conducting a legal and necessary review of the county's voter registration database - last May/June.

A delay at the Election Bureau due to the director's vacation interrupted the steady course last year to get the job done. Further delay reportedly was caused by the state's end - a technology update of the voter database called SURE.

As a result, even though letters have reportedly been sent to electors in the county who may fall under the "haven't voted in 2 consecutive federal elections" will not face further review to remove names from the voter registry for possibly another four (4) years!

The Tribune-Review headline is misleading, County begins purging voter rolls , since the purge hasn't actually begun. A process to review the database for the county of Fayette has started, but the removal of names - ineligible for not having voted in 2 consecutive federal elections - won't be done for quite some time. It's likely as well some names which should be removed due to voters having moved from the county but not notifying of such won't be removed either.

Meanwhile, Fayette commissioners each and all have admitted the county's voter registration rolls used in the Presidential Primary and General Elections, and subsequent elections, is "inaccurate."

Democrat commissioners Vincent Zapotosky and Vincent Vicites wanted the plan to conduct the purge submitted last May/June in time for the November elections. While Republican minority Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink noted information about past reviews being done, she agreed to the motion with a supportive vote. (revised April 22, 2009)

May 8, 2008
Moved by Commissioner Vicites and seconded by Commissioner Zimmerlink to develop a plan to purge voter records

Commissioner Zapotosky Aye
Commissioner Vicites Aye
Commissioner Zimmerlink Aye

Motion passed unanimously

Laurie Lint Director of Election Bureau states she will try to have the records ready for the next Commissioners meeting. Commissioner Zapotosky informed Mrs. Lint that we have 90 days. The Federal Law requires us to have the records done 90 days prior to the next Election. Commissioner Zimmerlink questioned the Director if she will have a plan ready in June. She replied she had to check on that. Commissioner Vicites informed Mrs. Lint she needs to get started on records as soon as possible. He added that we have many people that will never vote again for different reasons for example some may be deceased. He said we need to clean those up to make sure they are as accurate as possible.

Commissioner Zimmerlink stated that prior to 2004, a voter purge was done on a smaller scale and in 2006, and another purge was done in conjunction with mailing 21,000 new voter machine information affecting 30,000 voters. The Director confirmed this and Commissioner Zimmerlink said the County has since discussed another purge.

Commissioner Vicites asked Mrs. Lint to get all information for this process, which would be the cost, and where we would be seeking the funds. He added that 10,000 voters have not voted since the 2003 election, so there are still individuals on there that should not be. On the Federal Level they use to have to vote every 2 years, if they did not they would automatically be taken off the roll. They dropped
that when they did the Motor Voter Law in 1996

During a previous commissioners' meeting Thursday, January 24, 2008 to consider purchasing additional Hart InterCivic DRE voting machines or adopting a supplementary paper ballot optical scan system for use along with the county's already implemented eSlates, there was a division among the board.

Commissioner Vicites described the two voting machines and the difference between the Eslate and the Escan. The draw back about Escans are little more money but in the long run they are going to improve our system in a lot of different ways. Commissioner Vicites said he did a lot of research on this matter. Commissioner Zapotosky also spoke about the machines .The technology of the Eslates is just a little complicated for some people where the Escans are a better machine for most people and also people will get through the lines much quicker.

Moved by Commissioner Vicites and seconded by Commissioner Zapotosky to develop a plan to purchase the EScan voting systems or other voting system for the General Election 2008, as machines will not be available until that time.

Commissioner Zapotosky aye
Commissioner Vicites aye
Commissioner Zimmerlink nay
Motion passed 2-1

We don't get our hopes up that any one or more commissioners will act on his/her own, which each can do, following all election legalities, to review the local voter registry/database.

So why should they pass a resolution to enable public access to candidates' campaign finance reports online.

They'd need a plan or a study first.

How about they put all the names of the registered voters online, with address? No need for social security numbers or other personal material.

Just the names and address for voting purposes. Why isn't this info easily accessible on the county's website, too?

Net the Truth Online

Lehigh County to require posting of campaign finance reports online
By Darryl R. Isherwood | Of The Morning Call
April 9, 2009
Campaign finance in Lehigh County took a step into the 21st century Wednesday night.

The county commissioners introduced an ordinance that would require all candidates for commissioner or county executive to file campaign finance reports in electronic form to be posted on the county Web site.

The measure is the first of three that Republican Commissioners plan to introduce as part of a campaign reform package.

The package is a response to a Morning Call story detailing at least a dozen contractors who together donated about $100,000 to the war chest of County Executive Don Cunningham, the Republicans said at a press conference announcing the legislation last month.

''This is an attempt to increase the access and availability of campaign finance reports to the public,'' said Commissioner Dean Browning.

In a show of bipartisan support for the bill, Democratic Commissioner Bill Leiner requested that all nine commissioners be added as sponsors to the bill. The request was approved 9-0.

Also to be introduced in the coming weeks is a measure that would require any vendor hoping to do business with the county to report any contributions to the county executive or any commissioner within one year of signing a contract.

Vendors already under contract with the county would be required to report contributions made while working for the county...,0,2959444.story

County begins purging voter rolls
Buzz up!By Liz Zemba, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, February 27, 2009
Fayette County on Thursday initiated a long-awaited purge of its voter-registration rolls.

Laurie Lint, election bureau director, said her department began mailing out notices to some 9,000 inactive voters yesterday. The figure represents nearly 10 percent of the county's 91,382 registered voters.

County commissioners last summer discussed conducting the purge, but it was delayed until after the November election because of time constraints. Vince Zapotosky, chairman of the board of commissioners, attributed more recent delays to technical problems with the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors, or SURE.

Operated by the state, SURE notifies the state's 67 election bureaus when voters die, move or register in another county. Zapotosky said the county worked with the State Department to resolve problems with the system, allowing Fayette to move forward with purging its voter-registration rolls.

Lint said the 9,000 voters who will receive letters have had no election-related activity in five years. Such activity includes voting or making changes to addresses or party registration.

Individuals who receive the letters will be asked to contact the election bureau. If they do not, and then fail to vote in the next two federal elections, their registrations will be purged.

That means affected voters who fail to respond to the notices in time for this year's spring primary will still be permitted to vote, Lint said.

In the past, Fayette purged its voter rolls every two years. Lint said that stopped in 1995, when new rules were introduced with the passage of the Motor Voter Law.

Zapotosky said purging the voter rolls will give voters and candidates an accurate understanding of issues such as party dominance.

Of the county's current 91,382 registered voters, Lint said 62,880 are Democrats and 21,929 are Republicans. The balance, or 6,573, are independents.

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