By Keith Gushard
In the wake of Election Day problems, the head of the Crawford County Board of Elections vows the county will have an election policies and procedures manual in place before the 2013 spring primary.
“We understand this is one of our more important things we do as (county) commissioners,” Jack Lynch, election board chairman, said of the election board’s role. The three county commissioners serve as the election board unless seeking re-election as a county commissioner.
“We need to develop a policies and procedures manual and have it independently vetted. We don’t have one now,” said Lynch. “There is no requirement that things in the (election) packets are read by at least two people so we know what is going out.”
Lynch said the election manual will be developed by early in the first quarter of 2013 — prior to the spring primary.
“It’s my responsibility to see that it’s done — and to do that,” he said.
On Election Day, there were two signs incorrectly posted, apparently at most of the county’s 67 voting precincts, stating that voters must present identification in order to cast ballots.
The first sign, produced by county election officials, was reported by voters in the morning, and steps were taken by the election board to have it removed from all polling places by late morning on Election Day.
A second sign, part of preprinted election supplies purchased from William Penn Printing Co., was brought to Lynch’s attention by a voter around 4:30 p.m. Election Day when Lynch was at one of Meadville’s precincts. He removed the sign at that precinct but election officials decided not to take action to remove the signs from the other 66 polling places.
The second sign, printed on green paper and titled “Election News,” was less obvious than the first, but the first item it lists reads “New state laws require all voters who appear to vote in a precinct to provide election officials with proof of identification.”
Both signs were created after the state Legislature passed a law requiring voters to present ID. The signs were put in a packet for election workers but were not removed once a state judge set aside the ID requirement for this election.
“It’s extremely unfortunate what happened,” said Lynch of incorrect signs being posted at polling places. “It was a systematic blunder.”
Lynch also wants to know what other Pennsylvania counties used William Penn Printing Co. and what their experiences were on Election Day regarding the preprinted sign.
On Tuesday, Lynch again defended (as he did in a story in last Wednesday’s Tribune) the Election Board’s decision not to have all precincts remove the second sign.
“It was late in the day. We weren’t sure we could reach everyone and that they’d understand which sign we were talking about and that they’d follow through,” Lynch said.
Lynch also reiterated there have been no reports of voters turning away from precincts due to the sign.
“We’ve not heard of anyone not voting because the sign wasn’t pulled,” Lynch said.
Lynch said he agreed with Friday’s Meadville Tribune editorial about the situation, but rejected the editorial’s call for an independent watchdog group to work with the county election board.
“Watchdog is the wrong word because it connotes there was wrongdoing — that’s not the case,” Lynch said, noting there was no malice on the part of the election board, but human error in the incorrect signs going out.
“Clearly, we need to adjust. It’s incumbent upon us to do that,” Lynch said of the county election board’s preparations for the 2013 municipal elections.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.