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McClure: ‘We got this for you’

In response to some county residents’ concerns about mail-in voting, Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure assured voters in a Sept. 28 news conference that, “in our little corner of the world,” the Nov. 3 election will be safe and secure.

“You can trust that your votes will matter,” he said. “Stay calm, and vote. We got this for you. Your vote will count.”

He then outlined the ways you can make sure your vote counts.

If you want to vote in person at your precinct on Election Day, there are 154 polling precincts with 315 ExpressVote XL touch-screen voting devices. This voting system combines the simplicity of touch-screen voting with the important redundancy of a voter-verifiable paper trail.

McClure is asking voters who choose this option to wear a mask while at the polling locations. Poll workers will be required to do so.

Up until Oct. 27, you can apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot, either online or at the voter registration office. That office is open 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays.

Voter Registrar Amy Cozze has received and approved 63,000 applications thus far and mailed out 30,000 ballots Sept. 28. She expected to have all ballots in the mail by the end of that week.

The ballots will come with two envelopes. One is a secrecy envelope in which you must place your ballot. That secrecy envelope goes into an outer envelope that includes a voter’s declaration. This must be completed if you want your vote to count.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered elections officials to reject ballots unless they are inside the secrecy envelope. This is what is known as a “naked ballot.”

In addition, the Supreme Court has ruled that if the outer envelope is unsigned with a voter’s declaration, the vote must also go uncounted.

Cozze had previously predicted there would be 100,000 requests for absentee ballots but said interest in them has diminished.

McClure attributes this to “the president’s rhetoric and the decisions that have been made at the upper echelons of the U.S. Postal Service [that] have undermined some folks’ confidence in the postal system.”

McClure has confidence, however, the postal service will get ballots back in time. Moreover, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has imposed a three-day extension on mailed ballots. They now have until Nov. 6.

The return envelopes are already franked so there is no need for a stamp.

People who have received a mail-in ballot can change their minds and decide to vote at the polls. If they do change their mind, they must bring both the mail-in ballot and the envelopes to the voting precinct.

This requirement prevents a double vote. The mail-in ballot will be voided and voters will then be permitted to vote on the ExpressVote XL.

In the primary, there was one drop box location at the county government center in Easton. Administrator Charles Dertinger said, starting Oct. 1, there will be four drop boxes located at the following locations:

• Bethlehem City Hall’s plaza entrance, 10 E. Church St. - 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays

• Northampton County Government Center’s rotunda, 669 Washington St., Easton - 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays

• Northampton County Human Services Building, 2801 Emrick Blvd., Bethlehem - 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays

• Northampton County 911 Center, 100 Gracedale Ave., Nazareth - 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays

These locations correspond with the four county districts. Free parking is available at all four locations.

Each drop box is monitored by surveillance cameras and will be emptied daily by deputy sheriffs, who will be sworn in and will also complete daily forms to preserve the chain of custody.

The ballots are delivered to the registrar, who will secure them in a locked vault until Election Day, when canvassing can begin.

McClure noted that if you have no desire to stand in long lines on Election Day and distrust mail-in ballots, you can vote now by coming to the courthouse and requesting a ballot. This is known as early voting.

After filling out the necessary paperwork, the elections office will provide you with both a ballot and a location in which you can vote in privacy.

This option is available 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays.

McClure noted there will be long lines on Election Day, and the more people who vote at the courthouse, the less people will have to stand in line.

Northampton County’s elections office reported 217 voters have already exercised this option as of Sept. 30.

McClure dismissed Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley’s request for United Nations observers at the polls.

“We don’t need UN observers in Northampton County,” he said.

Given the numerous ways in which a person can vote, McClure said there really is no excuse for failing to vote Nov. 3.

Council President Ron Heckman added council has approved close to $5 million for the best voting machines, epollbooks and added personnel.

“It’s a bedrock responsibility,” Heckman said.

To find out where you vote, visit pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/PollingPlaceInfo.aspx.

PRESS PHOTO BY BERNIE O'HARE During a Sept. 28 news conference, Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure outlines numerous steps the county has taken to simplify voting.
A drop box is placed inside the Northampton County Courthouse rotunda. All drop boxes are under video surveillance and are emptied daily by deputy sheriffs. PRESS PHOTO BY BERNIE O'HARE