A standing room-only crowd made up mostly of organized, left-leaning, political activists shouted, “Shame! Shame!” when commissioners in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County voted to remove a ballot drop box placed at the county building on Monday, the day before the primary election.
Now, instead of placing absentee ballots in the drop box located just three steps inside the door of the county building, voters will have to walk about 30 steps into the building, from the same door, to get to the Board of Elections office where they will hand their ballot directly to one of the workers.
Anyone entering the building beyond the drop box must go through a metal detector manned by the sheriff department. Opponents say this makes voting “too difficult and complex” for voters.
At the time of the commissioners’ vote on Monday, the county’s lone drop box had only been in place since Friday.
Around the nation, the use of unmanned drop boxes has met with scrutiny amid evidence of suspected fraud. The Dinesh D’Souza film “2000 Mules” features government surveillance footage showing people stuffing drop boxes with multiple ballots in multiple locations in numerous states.
Another investigation by Pennsylvania’s Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office, in which detectives reviewed hours of video of the county’s drop boxes for the October 2021 elections, found hundreds of people putting multiple ballots into unmanned drop boxes.
Pennsylvania law requires a voter to send an absentee ballot by mail or deliver it personally. Yet, Gov. Tom Wolf’s wife, Frances Wolf, broke this law in the October 2021 election, when she deposited her own ballot along with her husband’s ballot in a York County ballot drop box. The governor later called it an honest mistake.
Lancaster County had not intended to provide a drop box for the primary election, but the county was sued last week by the American Civil Liberties Union, claiming that it had failed to meet in the sunshine to decide not to use drop boxes.
But a judge ruled on May 13 that the decision not to used drop boxes was administrative and did not need to be discussed in a public meeting, Lancaster County Commissioner Ray D’Agostino told The Epoch Times. The judge ordered the county to return to status quo, which he considered to be with drop boxes. He also allowed for the commissioners to meet on Monday and vote on the use of ballot boxes in the county.
With one commissioner out of town, two of the three commissioners met at 11 a.m. on May 16 and passed a resolution banning ballot drop boxes from being used in Lancaster County for this primary or any future election, unless compelled by Pennsylvania statute or by an official legal authority.
Before the vote, commissioners took about an hour of public comment.
In a group email, Duncan Hopkins, an organizer with the advocacy group Lancaster Stands Up, rallied Democrats to attend the meeting. In the email, he alleged that commissioners “are working so hard to confuse voters and make it more difficult for many to cast a ballot so close to an election.”
Representatives from the NAACP, League of Women Voters, Lancaster Democratic Party, Lancaster City Democrats, Pennsylvania CASA, and Lancaster Stands Up implored the commissioners to expand drop boxes to every community in the county instead of removing the county’s only drop box.
“It is a sense of privilege to say everyone can get here to vote,” said one woman, whose mother is 96 and uses oxygen.
Often, activists would snap fingers in unison or murmur support when one of their group spoke.
“I don’t understand why you want to make it harder to vote,” another person told the commissioners.
LaRock Hudson, political action chair for the local NAACP, challenged commissioners to provide data proving that drop boxes cause voter fraud, as preventing possible fraud was a reason mentioned in the resolution for banning drop boxes.
The introduction of drop boxes was a decision made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lancaster County used a drop box in 2020 and 2021 for COVID-19 mitigation. The drop box was placed near sheriffs handling security for the building, they had an election person watching the box at all times, and it was surveilled by camera.
“Things have changed, COVID is no longer such an issue, we are short staffed,” D’Agostino said. “We can’t have sheriffs doing a job of election staff, and election staff have better things to do than sitting at a box when people aren’t there. They could be sitting at their desk and as people come in, take the ballot. But when they’re not taking ballots, they can be doing other work, so there’s no need, quite frankly, to have that box there anymore.”
Several people spoke in favor of removing the drop box.
Kirk Radanovic, chairman of the Lancaster County Republican Club, said he was representing the 176,000 Republicans of Lancaster County who expect the commissioners to remove the ballot drop boxes to keep election integrity safe.
Another speaker said our parents and forefathers managed to get to the polls to vote, even when they worked or lived far away from the polls, and they expected to get election results on election day. She reminded attendees that verified absentee ballots have always been available for those who are too sick to get to the polls.
Dan Medbury, a Lancaster County resident and member of the John Birch Society, said the difficulty of voting is not in getting to the polls, but investing the time as a voter to research the positions of candidates.
“Too many people want extreme ease when they don’t take time to study the issues,” Medbury said.
After the resolution was passed, the ballot drop box was removed from the front door. The nearby election office will remain open until 8 p.m. until election day to receive any hand delivered ballots.