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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, February 22, 2024

NorCo Council's Election Integrity Committee Has Yet to Meet

This is a presidential election year. The primary is on April 23, just two months from now. Yet Northampton County Council's election integrity committee, formed last year in the wake of a botched election, has failed to conduct a single meeting. At this point, the only thing it can accomplish is to muddy the primary waters. 

I point this out, not to bash County Council, but to show its inherent weakness as a branch of government. Unlike the full-time executive, who has a small army of both full and part-time employees to implement his goals, County Council members are part-time. Most of them have full-time jobs. They have a staff of three people. And there are nine Council members. They have not only had problems working with the Exec, but lately, they've had problems working with each other.

In preparation for this year's election, the county administration has put out three separate calls for poll workers. It has scheduled several mandatory training sessions at which each poll worker will rece3ive two hours of training. Judges of election and machine inspectors will get additional training. The casting of lots for the primary was livestreamed and open to the public. It has publicly advertised the election dates and offices to be voted on by the public. It has scheduled four elections commission meetings, with the first to take place on March 5. The Express Vote XL logic and accuracy testing will be conducted publicly, with express invitations sent to candidates and party chairs. It appears that the county is making an effort to be totally up front and open about what is happening.

To be sure, there are some underlying questions that need answers. The county administration runs the elections office. Does that give the Exec an unfair leg up during years in which he's running? That's a question Executive Lamont McClure himself has asked. Exactly how powerful should an unelected elections commission be? Both the Home Rule Charter and Elections Code give this board the authority to "administer elections," but does that mean they can hire and fire workers protected by career service or unions? Does that mean they can unilaterally decide to purchase new machines in derogation of county council's control of the purse strings? Do they get to decide that one region of the county gets more drop boxes than the others, like Republican Scott Hough wanted to do for a GOP district? 

The public is entitled to the most efficient and fair elections that the county can provide. I'm really doubtful that will happen with unelected part-time election commissioners whose names are submitted by party bosses. Especially when one of them goes rogue and refuses to certify election results despite that being precisely what the law requires. 

What's really at play here are the requirements of the Home Rule Charter and Elections Code. Instead of an election integrity committee, Council would be better off establishing a committee of individuals who are willing to look at the Charter, article-by-article, and make recommendations after a year of study. This committee could recommend a home rule charter study commission for significant changes, or it could recommend a series of changes that would need no home rule charter study commission. 


Anonymous said...

Ah yes….our newly elected controller had made statements about getting this done promptly….
Test #1…..where is she?

Anonymous said...

Regarding election and campaigning updates, Apparently Taiba is telling voters she is a teacher, of some type, at Northampton Community College, and has a degree…..this is new..

Anonymous said...

It would appear that th election commission has the authority to go directly to the county council to recommend the purchase of machines. It appears the Executive has no say in their authority to purchased and the council's authority to approve it. If the executive refuses to honor the purchase, he is in violation of the Charter.

Anonymous said...

Ken Kraft has been the Elections Commission Chairman. Surely he is on the Election Committee.

Anonymous said...

Great suggestions here Bernie. First thing that needs to be done is remove the party chairs from the process of picking election commission members.

Anonymous said...

Nothing will get done in Norco until the citizens wake up and demand better government. In other words, it ain't going to happen.

Anonymous said...

It is approximately 45 years since the voters of Northampton County adopted a "Home Rule" form of Government. A review of policies and procedures is long overdue. You can start by appointing a committee to review some of these policies that they feel aren't working. Then, they should take a look at their "Administrative Code" to make sure the Code is in compliance with the Home Rule Charter that mandates certain rules and regulations. Also, at that time, they should make sure the Administration is following those laws. It's time for Council to start functioning like the "check and balance" they are supposed to be.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Warren has forgotten more about elections than Lori Heffner will ever know.

Anonymous said...

The 2025 Election has already started. Brown is making a comeback. Noted Narcissist Vargo Heffner has agreed to help him in exchange for the Human Resources job.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Ah yes….our newly elected controller had made statements about getting this done promptly….
Test #1…..where is she?"

A county controller'[s main job is to conduct financial audits and ensure that pubic money is spent in the way it was intended. It is NOT her job to get mixed up in speculative claims about child abuse or cash bail, as Pinsley has done in his never-ending quest for more votes. So I'd say she passed test one. I'd also say you have a bug up your ass about her. I don't like her but she deserves a chance to prove herself.

Anonymous said...

Has the Election Committee met yet?