There is a bill in Congress, HR 811, that requires voter verified paper ballots. It is a revision to The Help America Vote Act. As of August 5th it had 216 cosponsors which included local Congressmen Democrat Tim Holden and Republican Jim Gerlach. The extraordinary amount of cosponsors, coupled with the fact that both representatives from our area are in accord, seems to show that a broad spectrum of politicians have heard the outcry from the public which reached a crescendo during the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election.
Reports of voting irregularities have been widespread in recent years with many seeming to have occurred in Ohio during the 2004 Presidential election. Public confidence in the integrity of our elections are at the heart of preserving our democracy. That is why I was startled to read early this August in the Reading Eagle that the Berks County Commissioners voted to advise our representatives to oppose this revision to the law.
The article written by Mary E. Young reported that Commissioners Thomas W. Gajewski, Mark C. Scott and Judith L. Schwank “agreed to urge federal legislators representing Berks County to vote against the revision”. Among the reasons given were assertions that:
- It would cost Berks County 3 million dollars to implement.
- It would violate the state constitution according to Judith L. Schwank because the voter would be given a paper receipt which would match to a particular vote thus violating the secrecy of the vote.
- Elections Director Deborah M. Olivieri said that anyone could look at numbers assigned to voters as they entered the polls and by matching those to an audit tape could ascertain the vote of any individual.
- Deborah Olivieri also claimed that none of the suppliers of voting machines to Berks County could meet the requirements of the revision.
Reading the newspaper article I found the decision of the commissioners quite curious as well as the contentions of Ms. Oliveri that they were partially based on. I decided to learn more and attended the Berks County Commissioners meeting the following Tuesday (08/07/07).
Judith L. Schwank did not attend the meeting so it was chaired by Tom Gajewski. About a dozen citizens showed up to give their opinions on the matter. Mark Drabinsky, a long-time advocate of voter machine reform, gave an impressive point-by-point rebuttal of all the objections raised
in the Reading Eagle article. Citizens were allowed to speak and were asked probing questions by both Gajewski and Mark C. Scott.
When finished Mr. Gajewski directed both Ms. Olivieri and Mr. Drabinsky to get together, resolve their differences and contact the voting machine companies to see what they can do. They were then directed to come back with a joint report to the commissioners.
I applaud Mr. Gajewski’s willingness to revisit a decision based on the introduction of new evidence. I don’t know how this will be decided but this meeting made me confident that Mr. Gajewski is seeking the facts and will act accordingly. For this I raise a toast and salute you, Tom.