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Montgomery County Prepares for a Secure Fall Election

Residents of the Pennsylvania county voiced concerns about election security, including ballot drop boxes, voter fraud and ballot counting machines, at last week’s county commissioners’ meeting.

(TNS) — With commercials filling the airwaves and fliers filling mailboxes, Montgomery County, Pa., officials gave an update on preparations for this fall's election, while residents raised questions about the way the election will be handled.

County Commissioner Ken Lawrence, who also serves as chairman of the Board of Elections, gave reminders about several key dates fast approaching.

"The offices on the ballot will be U.S. senators and U.S. representatives, Pennsylvania governor and lieutenant governor, the entire state house of representatives, and some of our state senators," Lawrence said. "Voters will have several options to cast their ballot. They can vote by absentee ballot, mail-in ballot, or in person."

During his comments at the start of Thursday morning's commissioners' meeting, Lawrence announced several key dates: the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 8 election will be Oct. 24, and the last day to request a mail-in or absentee ballot is Nov. 1, and anyone who wants to check their status or whether they've already applied for a mail-in ballot can do so at

"If you have not, then you will need to apply" to receive a mail ballot, he said.

County residents can also visit to apply online for a mail-in ballot and can visit or call the county's Department of Voter Services at (610) 278-3280 with any questions, or tune in to an upcoming voting townhall, to be held on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 6 p.m.

"As chair of the board of elections, I will be on the call," Lawrence said, along with other county officials able to answer questions about voter registration, applying for ballots or becoming poll workers. Anyone interested in joining that call can do so via

After the commissioner's opening comments, several residents sounded off during the public comment portion of the meeting about issues related to recent elections, and preparations for the next one.

Ken Souder of North Wales said he had seen a recent poll showing "a large swing away from confidence in our voting, both Democrat and Republican. We do have a problem here."

Souder then showed a photo he claimed was of a person delivering several ballots into a drop box during a prior election and said "as far as I know that's illegal," unless the person has a form authorizing them to do so.

Commissioners Chairwoman Val Arkoosh then asked county solicitor Josh Stein to answer, who did so.

"Those designated agent forms were included in each of those ballots, that were placed in there by that individual," Stein said.

Souder then asked if those forms could be viewed by the public, and Stein said he would need to research further: "There are certain records that are available for public inspection. We'll have somebody follow up with you, about what is and is not available."

"I would appreciate knowing that, because that is an invitation to fraud, and is a very, very dangerous thing to our democracy," Souder answered.

Nancy Price of Upper Merion asked the board to consider a resolution removing drop boxes for ballots, similar to one she said has recently been approved in Lancaster County.

"Commissioners do have the authority to remove these boxes. And we have seen the ballot harvesting, sadly, throughout the commonwealth, using these boxes," she said, referencing the documentary film "2000 Mules" and its claims that thousands of persons cast improper ballots in unmonitored drop boxes in swing states during the 2020 election.

"The ballot boxes were installed during Covid, and Covid is over. We have an election day, not an election season, and as our acting board of elections, I'm asking you to do everything within your power to secure elections in this county," Price said.

Loretta Wampole of Upper Gwynedd said she recently moved to the county from North Carolina and felt the election boards were "so organized and precise" there, but "I've heard since I've been in Pennsylvania that things are just not going well in this area."

"These boxes that have created such a division between the parties — I would just ask, please, that you take away these boxes so that people will feel more secure in the elections," she said.

Stanley Casacio of Whitemarsh added that he felt the commissioners "not only do you have the right, you have a sworn obligation, to maintain accurate and true voter registration rolls," before presenting what he claimed was a list of names that should not be on the rolls of registered voters.

"You represent all of us. I beg you, to do what is right for the sacred gift of democracy that we know in this country. Our country's survival depends on the honoring of their pledge to protect the constitution of our country, Pennsylvania, and our community. So please, I beg you to clean up the voter rolls as soon as you can," he said.

Michelle Mellor of Whitpain told the commissioners she had "completely lost my faith in the voting process in Pennsylvania," before questioning the numbers of votes cast against registered voters in the 2020 election.

"I'll tell you how: it's from these drop boxes. These drop boxes need to be removed, and I have recently learned that is under your authority as commissioners. They were put there under the emergency act for Covid. Meanwhile, everybody's standing in lines in Walmarts, and supermarkets, and every place else. There's no reason on God's green earth they can't get to the polls, or at a minimum send in absentee ballots, legally, through the mail, instead of in these unmanned, unaccounted for, no-chain-of-command ballot boxes," she said.

Jason Lanier of Lansdale asked the commissioners if the numbers of mail ballots starting in 2020 had ever been audited and counted against numbers of registered voters, and "has there ever not been a problem, with mail-in ballots, in any election?"

"If you want to shut us all up, who think there is a problem, audit the vote. If you're right, you're right, and we have to shut up, and we can't say another word. But if there is a problem, it should be rectified," he said.

Kevin Skoglund of Lower Merion said he's the president of the regional " Citizens for Better Elections" group and was surprised by the comments questioning the paper ballots and drop boxes.

"I heard people ask to ban drop boxes. I'm not sure that they realize, that would push voters to use U.S. postal drop boxes instead, which are less secure, unmonitored, slower, and don't go straight to the county. It would not end vote by mail, it would just make it worse," Skoglund said.

For those who have asked that ballots be hand-counted instead of by machines, Skoglund said hand counting takes an average of seven seconds per contest per ballot, and said an election with 500,000 ballots with ten contests each would take 500 teams of three workers each roughly 19.4 hours to complete, "basically paying 1,500 people to work three days." An election of about that size in Butler county was recently completed in 18.5 hours and hand-counters made two errors, while machine scanners did the same count with no errors, he added.

"All Pennsylvania counties do post-election audits, to check those machine counts. We don't blindly trust them. Instead of hand counting, what we need is for the legislature to improve and expand the post-election audits that we already have," he said, before thanking the commissioners and staff for their work.

Sheryl Keshishian of Lower Merion said she's a member of Skoglund's group and has worked as a judge of elections in recent years, and is in favor of the county using hand-marked paper ballots, "so that you all can mark your own ballot, and not have a machine change your vote." In her area, Keshishian told the commissioners, "many of the people where I live have watched as those ballots, the box is opened, the whole thing is picked up, put into a truck with a bunch of sheriffs or constables, and taken directly to the county."

Most drop boxes have cameras overhead, she added, and in the first year of using them long lines were noted, but those lines have subsided since, "and every one of our ballots has been approved, based on your signature," and other information such as social security or driver's license numbers, before adding that she often works 12-plus hours on election day: "If I have to hand count any more than absentee ballots, I'd be out of my mind."

Walter Gleba of Conshohocken said he felt "having honesty in our elections did not become the hot-button issue today, just over the recent election of Donald Trump," citing allegations of election improprieties in 2016, 2000, and 1960 at the time.

"The point is, that I think we need to make our elections as legitimate and as transparent as we possibly can. Now, how do we get there? We've heard a lot about the drop boxes. We shouldn't have people at drop boxes all day long, to make sure things are safe. So let's do away with the drop boxes, let's do away with these machines," and reduce the use of mail ballots and shorten counting times as much as possible, he said.

Kim Henderson of East Norriton said she's voiced concerns, "meeting after meeting, about voter integrity, lack of transparency, safe and secure elections. We the people have presented concerns about inflated, outdated voter rolls, including deceased and voters who have moved out of their voting precinct," with little action from the commissioners, and with denials when she submitted right-to-know requests for designated agent forms.

"We demand safe, secure, transparent elections, and numerous people in the room today have expressed their concern and lack of trust in our voter integrity," she said.

Barb Furman of New Hanover Township said she's a judge of elections in a precinct with over 3,000 voters, a number larger than recommended, and said she has "little access or information to verify the mail-in ballots." Prior to 2019, mail and absentee ballots were processed at precincts with local control, she said, but are now done at polling sites and processing centers "where few know for sure whether votes are coming from the specific voter, with no required signature verification. this certainly has little in the way of transparency. The voters demand eliminating drop boxes; mail ballots should be processed at their precinct, with signature verification."

Thomas Blair of Upper Frederick said he's seen "laws enacted, and administrative directives issued, ostensibly to make it easier to vote, for those who for some reason would not otherwise be able to vote. But there is no concern that these laws also make it easier to cheat. Printing mail-in ballots that were not requested, votes from addresses where there's no residents, unmonitored drop boxes, no concern for possible ballot harvesting of votes delivered to retirement homes, that are not received by the residents, but by a mail clerk; bins of ballots arriving for counting that have no chain of custody. Voting is what makes us a democracy, and we who worry about voter fraud are not conspiracy theorists," he said.

And Marleen Laska of Upper Providence said she also would like to see the ballot drop boxes eliminated, and said she felt Act 77 of 2019 was unconstitutional since the state constitution only addresses absentee and not mail voting.

"The process was not followed, as to how you modify the Pennsylvania constitution. So we have to get back to the Pennsylvania constitution, and only have absentee ballots, no mail-in ballots, and you have to have a definitive reason why you are using an absentee ballot," she said.

After the public comments, commissioner Joe Gale took aim at Act 77, saying he agreed with many of the concerns voiced by residents, but they'd have to be addressed at the state rather than county level.

"I've opposed everything associated with mail-in voting. I voted against purchasing the drop boxes. I voted against purchasing the mail-in ballot, the actual paper. I voted against buying mail-in ballot envelopes. I voted against the real estate lease agreement for the mail-in ballot center, that we never had prior to Act 77," he said.

"We desperately need election reform. We have to fix our election laws in Pennsylvania, that are blatantly unconstitutional. The Pennsylvania commonwealth court, an appellate court, has said that. I can't believe we've had several elections conducted under unconstitutional voting guidelines," Gale said, before adding: "and if I made an attempt to make a resolution similar to Lancaster County, for the removal of drop boxes, which I opposed purchasing, that's a step forward, it's not going to solve the total problem, but I won't even get a second on this board. My motion would not get a second, and it's not going to go anywhere."

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