Saturday, January 27, 2007

Norco Citizens' Elections Committee Minutes

I was feeling rather smug and proud of myself yesterday. I had a link set up to the minutes for the organizational meeting of Northampton County's citizens' advisory committee. That committee is studying our election problems. But an anonymous poster told me he couldn't get at it, nor could Miss Twinkie. I'm not so smug today. Until I've sorted out where I've gone wrong, the minutes are located below.

In conjunction with
Voter’s Registration Office
Organizational Meeting Minutes
January 23, 2007 – 3:00 PM

The organizational kickoff meeting of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee was facilitated by the Northampton County Director of Administration, John Conklin, and comprised of the following non-partisan members:
Margaret "Peg" Ferraro Russell Shade Greta Brown
Jack Bradt Richard Benner
Welcome – John Conklin
Mr. Conklin thanked everyone for attending and for providing their assistance.

Opening Comments:
County Executive, John Stoffa, noted that the cooperative efforts to be achieved by this committee is to have the ultimate goal of overcoming problems that exist in the County of Northampton. The purpose is "to do better"; Mr. Stoffa stated, and these are the recommendations he proposed:
Hold public meetings;
Interview/survey members of the Election Commission, County Council, members of the Staff and Chairpersons of the Political Parties;
Invite public comment;
Determine if a paper trail is needed;
Suggest a process for the format of the voting machine—who determines final approval;
Voting tabulation improvements;
Establish validity of ethics code, if necessary;
Complete a final report in four months;
Derive suggestions by the Committee on how to achieve its goals.

Mr. Stoffa also noted that the Administration office extends its support to Committee members with its staff in preparing documentation, copying, provide meeting space and whatever else is necessary to complete the tasks at hand. Mr. Conklin reiterated that he offers his complete support to the committee.
The next primary election will be held on May 15, 2007.
Mr. Conklin introduced Deborah DePaul, Chief Registrar, Voter’s Registration Office and;
NC Citizens’ Advisory Committee Page Two January 23, 2007
Kimberlee Shoup-Yeahl, Regional Sales Manager of AVS, the voting machine provider.

Introduction of Committee Members – Roll Call
Role call was taken and it was confirmed that all committee members were present.

Courtesy of the Floor
The public was offered an opportunity to present its comments.
There were none forthcoming.

Organizational Business
Mr. Conklin suggested that a Chairman and Co-Chairman be nominated to serve on the committee.

Mr. Bradt nominated Ms. Ferraro for Chairperson, seconded by Mr. Benner.
No further nominations were presented.
Nominations were closed.
Mr. Conklin cast a ballot to elect Ms. Ferraro as Chairperson. The committee unanimously approved.
Richard Benner nominated Russell Shade for Co-Chairperson, seconded by Ms. Ferraro.
No further nominations were presented.
Nominations were closed.
Mr. Conklin cast a ballot to elect Mr. Shade as Co-Chairperson. The committee unanimously approved.

Timeframe for recommendations/findings
Chairperson, Ms. Ferraro resumed the meeting and put forth her items for discussion, including the referenced subject.
Ms. Ferraro polled the committee for a suitable time to conduct meetings and also the frequency of them.
The members unanimously decided that a 7:00 p.m. timeframe on a weekly basis be held in the County Council Room 307 based upon its availability.
The next official meeting date and time will be held on January 31, 2007. Subsequently, the following meeting will be held on February 7, 2007. All meetings will follow the sunshine law by advertising in the local newspapers.

New Business

Ms. Ferraro asked Ms. DePaul to approach the committee to explain the latest information concerning laws and other governing issues by the state. Ms. DePaul provided a packet of information for the committee to review that would explain and provide the latest information.
In an effort to generate interest in the election process, Ms. DePaul noted that she opened her office to colleges in an effort to approach students and encourage them to participate in elections. The PTA’s have also been approached for their assistance in taking part in the election process. One of the problems facing elections is providing a suitable location. The state has mandated very strict rules in the requirements necessary for a location due to the security factor. To date, there are now fifteen (15) schools being used as polling places. One of the issues that seems to indicate the lack of importance on election day is the fact that it is not declared a holiday for schools which demeans the importance of going to the polls to vote. Ms. DePaul emphasized that the state mandates many of the issues that seem to present problems to the voters’ registration office who must carry out their duties and responsibilities accordingly.
Issues of Importance Outlined by the Committee
Voting machine problems (newly computerized)
Timeframe in counting absentee votes – last election it took six weeks
How to resolve issues confronting candidates wanting to run for office
Mr. Conklin noted that County administration is addressing some of the problem issues that are of concern in the coming primary election in May. He will share his information with the committee.
Ms. Ferraro reviewed her agenda for the next meeting and requested suggestions:
To Research the packet of information provided by the registration office;
To put questions together and include comments;
Address and provide solutions connected with the voting machine;
(privacy of the location of the machine within the room…past experience had the monitor in full view of public)
How to encourage more volunteer participation in polling locations and what issues, if any, concern the volunteers at these locations;
What are concerns of other counties on the use of computer voting machines, etc.;
What can be done about the timeframe in counting absentee ballots;
User friendly office….can we obtain information easily at the voter registration office;
Where will the voter registration office be located when Wolf Building is closed;
What are the issues concerning the candidates for election;
What are the Parties’ concerns;
How can we improve the website… is important to the public;
How can we improve voter registration and then to get them to come out to vote.

Ms. DePaul noted that the 2000 census report indicated that the population is 267,066 in Northampton County. There are presently 190,000 registered voters. However, the number of voters varies according to the type of election being held.
Ms. Brown respectfully requested that the Committee refer to its body as a non-partisan representation of the voters and not a segregated body. The Committee unanimously agreed. All reference to the members will be "non-partisan".

Courtesy of the Floor
Ms. Ferraro acknowledged a member of the public as follows:
Mary Barkett, 169 Spruce Street, Nazareth, PA 18064.
Ms. Barkett mentioned that she is a Republican Committee volunteer. She indicated that it would be advantageous to have comments from as many different people and many different variables as possible. She thanked the administration for forming the committee and for having this forum for the voters, "the voters are very important".
Ms. Ferraro mentioned that the public may forward questions, concerns, and suggestions to the Administration office where there concerns will be addressed, if possible.
Mr. Conklin noted that a separate email address is set up for this purpose. This address is:

Next Meeting Date – Wednesday, January 31, 2007, 7:00 PM, Council Rm #307

Ms. Ferraro adjourned the meeting at 4:00 PM.

January 23, 2007

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