Those are the exact words Northampton County Voter Registrar Deborah DePaul used at last night's meeting of a citizens' advisory committee studying our elections problems. Her Highness revealed the source of our election troubles. It's her.
Retired Registrar Benner expressed dismay over DePaul's numerous letters to state and federal officials concerning HAVA. In one, she actually urged county executive Stoffa to ignore the new federal law. "While it might be criminal, criminals are pardoned." Benner flatly told DePaul those remarks are out of line.
Benner wondered why newspapers still call him with elections questions. The press has told him they can't get the information they need from DePaul's office. He's concerned the office may now be playing favorites, echoing some concerns he heard from Congressman Dent's office. And he noted that eight people have recently jumped ship. He questioned why the office no longer had a notary for affidavits brought in at the last minute. Greta Browne also wanted to know why DePaul couldn't send someone from her office to Nazareth's recent, and very successful, nonpartisan "resident to candidate" forum.
This is when H.R.H. DePaul launched one of her long, rambling defenses. Rarely have I seen someone use so many words to say so little. Maybe she should be a blogger. She blamed everyone but herself.
"Prior to coming here, that office was in major disruption. ... The atmosphere in my staff is wonderful. ... It's very professional and very pleasant."
As professional as her staff may be, she could not trust any of them to go to Nazareth. "That would be a bad situation. You're not going to send a tech to do a surgery." This is not brain surgery. As one of at least forty people attending that forum, I know her employees could easily have handled all questions. Blogger Ross Nunamaker was able to do so rather nicely. DePaul missed a major opportunity to recast her office in a favorable light. Her attitude betrays a distrust, both of her own staff and the public. She just doesn't understand something Benner said at the committee's first meeting. "People must be made to understand you're there to help them."
At last night's meeting, panel members Russ Shade, Peg Ferarro, Dick Benner, Greta Browne and Jack Bradt agreed to ask the Department of State for proof that the AVS WinVote machines are really certified. They also want assurances that the hardware shipped by Advanced Voting Solutions is, in fact, what was approved. Local state legislators will receive copies of this request. They are also working on a survey about problems in the elections office, which will be distributed to candidates, poll workers and voters.
As Benner expressed his displeasure with DePaul, committee members Russ Shade and Peg Ferraro are frustrated by state officials who ignore them. Russ Shade mentioned repeated requests for information concerning state certification. "I'm ready to go to the governor. ... We're not asking for a miracle." And Peg Ferraro complained, "They're not answering the public and they're supposed to be public servants."
Voter activist Alan Brau, a local physician, warned the committee this would happen. He has had to sue the state Department of State over its refusal, without explanation, to re-examine voting machines.
Elections commissioner Joan Rosenthal also recommended that the Home Rule Charter be amended to provide that the elections commission become nonpartisan.
The citizens' advisory panel will meet again on February 28 and March 14, at 7 PM, in council chambers on the 3rd floor of the Northampton County courthouse. You can contact them with your views at email@example.com. Minutes for these meetings are on the left side bar of this blog.