Returning officers fill vacant PA positions with varying experience
The post of director has been vacant in two counties – Center and Montgomery – since last year.
“[Losing] like ⅓ knowledge and experience is huge, ”said Representative Clint Owlett (R., Tioga) at one of the 10 state government committee meetings. “Having the next generation of truly trained election officials and hearing that there is no formal or mandatory training is something we need to look at.”
Almost all states help train local election officials, county clerks, clerks or election commissions in one way or another, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some states, like Arizona, require election officials to participate in a certification program – typically a series of state-run courses over a period of a year or two – while others require training courses. continuous or at the very least offer annual or biennial training.
Two organizations, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and the National Association of Election Officials, offer a certificate in election administration. The latter also organizes workshops, seminars and conferences for members.
The Pennsylvania Election Code gives the Commonwealth Secretary the ability to develop “voluntary professional certification” and election officer training programs for county election officials in consultation with local election boards, and allows election officials to ” be remunerated for their participation in the training.
A State Department spokesperson told Spotlight PA and Votebeat that the department historically offered optional online and in-person training for county election officials and polling officers, often in conjunction with state and federal partners.
Spokeswoman Ellen Lyon referred to a section of the state code that gives county election councils – made up of county commissioners in most jurisdictions – the ability to “train election officials in their duties.” It is not known how many counties, if any, actually offer directions.
Marks told the House State Government Committee in January that department staff provided in-person assistance to county electoral directors with the post-election risk mitigation pilot audits, which some counties were doing for the first time this year. He said he had also offered to personally review professional responsibilities with incoming electoral directors.
Pennsylvania electoral directors said they meet at regional conferences they hold several times a year, but have not been able to meet in 2020 due to the pandemic. Election directors said they also share tips and ask questions regularly via an email thread, and have phone calls every two weeks with the State Department.
A report released last week that summarizes House election monitoring meetings offers suggestions that echo the GOP’s desire to make election administration uniform across 67 counties, which Republicans said did not take place. ‘last year.
Counties differed in the number of ballot boxes and satellite voting locations they offered people to vote by mail, and localities differed when it came to allowing voters to correct errors on their ballot envelopes. by mail.
“Confidence in the Pennsylvania electoral process would be bolstered by increased training of election administrators and clearer and uniform guidelines on the transparency of electoral operations,” wrote committee chair Seth Grove (R., York), adding that Pennsylvania could benefit from a training manual or standard. rule book, similar to that of Arizona.
Grove’s report also includes ideas such as verifying the signature for all mail-in ballots and implementing stricter voter identification rules. Any legislation will have to be negotiated with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, whose staff told The Associated Press earlier this month they would oppose changes to the state’s voter identity law.
Grove told the Philadelphia Inquirer last week that he hoped to negotiate with Wolf’s office and others before drafting legislation that could be introduced as early as this month.
Election managers are now eagerly awaiting the changes proposed by lawmakers.
Benyo, from County Lehigh, said he hopes lawmakers strike a “happy medium” and enact changes that benefit voters and make the job of electoral managers easier without letting politics get in the way.
“Right now we’re sort of in a strange place, uncharted territory where voters believe what they want to believe or believe things that aren’t necessarily true, and that’s not good for the whole process. “, did he declare.
Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive / The Patriot-News, TribLIVE / Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.
This article is made possible by Votebeat, a non-partisan reporting project covering the integrity of local elections and access to voting. This article is available for reprint under the terms of Votebeat’s republication policy.