Times Chronicle & Public Spirit

Ballot drop boxes dominate public comment at commission­ers’ meeting

Discussion ahead of Nov. 8 general election

- By Rachel Ravina

NORRISTOWN >> Elected officials responded to electionre­lated concerns Thursday as the topic dominated public comment for yet another Montgomery County Board of Commission­ers meeting.

“I am not going to go down the rabbit hole to address conspiracy theories, disinforma­tion and outright falsehoods promoted by the big lie, but as a democracy, we all need to do a better job understand­ing how our elections are run,” said Montgomery County Commission­ers’ Vice Chairman Ken Lawrence Jr., a Democrat.

The 2022 general election is scheduled to take place on Nov. 8. Eligible voters have until Oct. 24 to register. Voters can cast their ballot by mail, absentee ballot or at the polls on Election Day, according to the Montgomery County Office of Voter Services.

Those planning to vote by mail have until Nov. 1 to request a mail-in ballot, which must be returned before 8 p.m. on Election Day, according to the county voter services office. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m on Nov. 8. Several state and federal candidates are on the ballot for positions including state representa­tives and senators in the Pennsylvan­ia General Assembly, governor and lieutenant governor, as well as Congressio­nal representa­tives and U.S. Senators.

More than 20 people addressed the county commission­ers virtually and in person at the bimonthly meeting, with the majority of remarks relating to the upcoming election.

“All we are asking is that you give us the proof, the data, the evidence that our elections are secure. We don’t want to just be told they are secure,” said Oaks resident Maureen Laska.

A number of area residents expressed security concerns regarding election drop boxes, which have been posted across Montgomery County for voters to return their mail-in ballots. While 11 ballot drop boxes were placed last year across the county, drop boxes have yet not been set up for this election, according to Montgomery County Director of Elections Dori Sawyer.

These drop boxes have elicited differing opinions from Montgomery County voters.

“This makes me feel safe and secure,” said Lower Merion resident Sarah Atkins. “It is very open, and available, and this is an important part of the voting process now.”

Upper Merion resident Nancy Price had previously asked that the drop boxes be taken away.

“The ballot boxes were installed during Covid, and Covid is over. We have an Election Day, not an election season, and … I’m asking you to do everything within your power to secure elections in this county,” Price said during a September commission­ers meeting.

She came before elected officials once again with the same request and observed tension during the roughly hour-long public comment session.

“I get the sense from this meeting I don’t feel like we’re all working together,” she said. “It’s sort of an adversaria­l atmosphere.”

Lawrence and Montgomery County Commission­ers’ Chairwoman Val Arkoosh, also a Democrat, declared their support for drop boxes.

“As long as there’s mail-in voting, I will always be for drop boxes,” Arkoosh said.

“Drop boxes are under continuous surveillan­ce,” Arkoosh said. “They are emptied every day by county employees, and those ballots are brought straight back to voter services. It is hard for me, and I say this respectful­ly, it is very hard for me to understand how individual­s think that a U.S. postal box is more secure than that.”

Lawrence, who also serves as chairman of the county election board, agreed.

“If you support fewer people handling ballots and an electronic record of ballots being returned and the peace of mind of same-day delivery you should be in favor of drop boxes,” he said.

Lawrence said he voted by mail during the 2020 election season but has since returned to in-person voting.

“That’s my personal choice as is every citizen’s personal choice under the law to make their own determinat­ion on how they want to cast their ballot,” Lawrence said. “As a county commission­er, and chair of the county board of elections, I will continue to uphold the law and work to ensure every citizen’s vote is counted however they choose to vote.”

Fellow Montgomery County Commission­er Joe Gale, the lone Republican, did not speak directly on the matter Thursday but has long been a vocal critic

of mail-in voting.

Lawrence and Arkoosh stressed the need to offer further accessibil­ity for voters who may not be able to make it to the polls on Election Day.

“You cannot ask somebody to forego a day’s pay to exercise their right to vote,” Arkoosh said, referencin­g hospital employees, emergency personnel and others working long shifts.

Jamie Mogil, president of the League of Women Voters in Lower Merion and Narberth, stressed the importance of making resources available to voters through drop boxes and satellite

voter services offices.

While the Montgomery County Office of Voter Services is located on the sixth floor of One Montgomery Plaza in downtown Norristown, other satellite offices are set up in Lansdale, Narberth, Pottstown, and Willow Grove.

“It’s not rocket science when we make voting accessible more people vote,” Mogil said.

Anyone with questions about the election can visit the Montgomery County Office of Voter Services from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those interested can also call 610278-3280.

 ?? RACHEL RAVINA - MEDIANEWS GROUP ?? Montgomery County Commission­ers’ Vice Chairman Ken Lawrence Jr., who also serves as chairman of the county election board, makes remarks related to the upcoming Nov. 8 election during Thursday’s meeting.
RACHEL RAVINA - MEDIANEWS GROUP Montgomery County Commission­ers’ Vice Chairman Ken Lawrence Jr., who also serves as chairman of the county election board, makes remarks related to the upcoming Nov. 8 election during Thursday’s meeting.

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