Lower Saucon to document cases of 'disenfranchised' voters ahead of Election Board meeting
LOWER SAUCON TWP., Pa. — Lower Saucon Township Council on Wednesday made moves to compile community concerns from Election Day to share with Northampton County officials.
The panel voted 4-1, with Councilwoman Priscilla deLeon dissenting.
The move will put a “Lower Saucon Township Election Incident Report” on the township website. Council appointed the township solicitor to send a written statement to county leadership about the plans.
Lower Saucon Council President Jason Banonis said residents could use the website feature to share witness accounts and information such as location, precinct, ZIP code, ballot and machine irregularities, lack of information, inability to vote and more from Election Day.
The county Board of Elections is set to meet at 3 p.m. Nov. 21 in the county Government Center.
In Lower Saucon, Democrats appeared to have grabbed all three open council seats, looking to join two other Republicans on the panel and flip the majority at the turn of the year.
For a detailed look at just how Election Day played out — including the voting machine "glitches" and comments from officials — check out LehighValleyNews.com's live update feed from Nov. 7.
'Nothing more fundamental'
Banonis read a prepared statement highlighting his own thoughts and those of local “disenfranchised” voters who experienced troubles in casting their ballots.
He cited accounts of machines switching votes, poor communication from poll judges, not enough provisional ballots, voter intimidation, lack of anonymity along with confidentiality and security concerns.
Banonis said the situation spans beyond party lines.
“There’s nothing more fundamental than free and fair elections.”Lower Saucon Twp. Council President Jason Banonis
“There’s nothing more fundamental than free and fair elections,” Banonis said. “There’s also urgency to immediately look into these problems and find solutions so that they do not repeat.
“It seems that the Northampton County Executive’s Office will not be accepting responsibility or doing anything, or does not care about those fundamental flaws.”
He said the voting machine manufacturer, ES&S, had been previously sued over similar issues with its ExpressVote XL model, yet Election Day still saw problems with some of the ballots.
Officials ultimately attributed that issue to human formatting errors.
Council Vice President Mark Inglis said county Executive Lamont McClure’s response to the ballot issues was “not acceptable.”
“It’s not about winning, it’s not about losing; it’s not about any of that. It’s about going to the polls and having confidence in that your vote counts, period.”Lower Saucon Twp. Council Vice President Mark Inglis
“It’s not about winning, it’s not about losing; it’s not about any of that,” Inglis said. “It’s about going to the polls and having confidence in that your vote counts, period.”
Councilwoman deLeon said she didn’t see the point of the township, and specifically its manager, having to take this on this website initiative when county staff planned to hold a meeting next week at which people could share concerns.
Councilman Thomas Carocci agreed with Banonis, saying officials need to be more particular about who’s inspecting the voting machines if there’s been issues before.
Township resident Monica Willard said she hoped officials wouldn’t bother pursuing litigation surrounding the voting results.
“The reason that I came tonight is it was a concern when I saw that there was an agenda item about voting, voting machines and ways to waste the taxpayers’ money and time,” Willard said.
Natalie Hadjiloukas, who said she serves as the majority inspector for the Board of Elections’ District 8, said the Nov. 21 meeting would be the “proper forum” for sharing concerns.
“The reason that I came tonight is it was a concern when I saw that there was an agenda item about voting, voting machines and ways to waste the taxpayers’ money and time."Township resident Monica Willard
“I encourage anyone who is able to attend this, including council people who have these concerns, and let them know what you feel about the difficulties that we encountered,” Hadjiloukas said.
“And join me in asking for more contingency plans and more thorough checking to be put into place to avoid something like this in the future.”
Resident Mark Kellner said there have been too many “anomalies” in recent elections to let this case slide, and voting should be done exclusively on paper ballots and counted by hand.
“I don’t care who won and who lost on your board,” Kellner said. “It’s the process. And if we can’t get that right, how does anybody know who actually won?”
St. Luke's letter
The panel spoke of an Oct. 27 letter from St. Luke's University Health Network sent to employees and patients living near Bethlehem Landfill.
St. Luke's, alongside a number of other area groups, has opposed the proposed landfill expansion because its Anderson Campus is near the dump.
The letter detailed the opposition, citing potential effects on nearby nature and waterways, the Anderson Campus' sunflower fields and more.
Carocci read the letter for the record, and later said he thought sending a message out using patient contact information like that could potentially be seen as a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
"I'm not aware of anybody who signed up for St. Luke's political messaging."Lower Saucon Twp. President Jason Banonis
He said St. Luke's Chief Executive Officer Rick Anderson and Anderson Campus President Ed Nawrocki had signed the letter.
"I think we all can agree that St. Luke's [University] Health Network is an asset to our community," Banonis said. "It employs many of our residents and neighbors, it provides important health care to our residents.
" ... I'm not aware of anybody who signed up for St. Luke's political messaging."
Banonis later read what he said were recent revenues and incomes coming in for St. Luke's and its leadership over the past couple of years.
"Everything you said is gratuitous. ... You're grandstanding and you're making up facts and you don't know the law."St. Luke's attorney Joseph Bubba
Carocci and Banonis both spoke on how St. Luke's doesn't pay real estate taxes to Lower Saucon, as it's a not-for-profit corporation.
And considering the township's volunteer fire company responded to more than 80 calls over three years at the Fountain Hill hospital, officials should consider at least making a donation to the fire force, Carocci said.
"Everything you said is gratuitous," St. Luke's attorney Joseph Bubba said at one point. "You're grandstanding and you're making up facts and you don't know the law."
The council ultimately voted 4-1, with deLeon opposing, to send a letter to St. Luke's administration, requesting an explanation on the situation within 14 days.
The council majority agreed a next course of action pending no response would involve reporting St. Luke's to higher tax authorities.