Lebanon County early votes increased after staffed ballot shed, but some don’t like ‘too much personal touch’

LEBANON CO., Pa. (WHTM) — Among voters who have voted before election day since the advent of no-excuse early voting in Pennsylvania, a greater percentage in Lebanon County dropped off their ballots in person for April’s primary election than did so in previous elections.

About 39 percent of all early voters — those who either mailed their ballots or dropped them off in person — did so in person before the April 23 primary election, said Sean Drasher, who heads the county’s election office. That compares with between 25 percent and 28 percent for previous elections, Drasher said.

County commissioners voted earlier this year — two to one, along party lines, with the commission’s Republicans in the majority — to have a staffed drop-off ballot location instead of a dropbox that was unstaffed but monitored by video cameras.

Drasher said at least as important a consideration for voters as whether or not the drop-off location was staffed seemed to be the fact it was outside the building, meaning no cumbersome security checks before entering the building or challenges for voters with physical disabilities.

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“It’s just a lot more convenient for people to use that method,” said Drasher, referring to the new shed.

Drasher also said Republican in-person early voters outnumbered Democrats three to one, compared to an average in the county — whose electorate is overwhelmingly Republican — of two-to-one in previous elections during the no-excuses early-voting era.

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“We don’t know exactly why we saw the growth, especially in the party difference,” Drasher said.

Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz — the commission’s lone Democrat, who voted against the change — said she thought the new system was fine, although she also thought the old system was fine.

Some voters, she said, appreciated the personal touch of being able to hand their ballots — without getting out of the car — directly to workers, who took the ballots and deposited them.

But “there were people who took offense to too much personal touch,” Litz said. “They didn’t mind the attendant being there, but they didn’t like not being able to put their ballot into the ballot box.”

The reason?

“When they go to vote [in person], they fill in the ballot and they personally put it through the scanner,” Litz said. “So they didn’t like the intermediary.”

Litz said one person noted the workers staffing the shed didn’t take an election oath each day.

So to further increase voter confidence, “we are going to add that to the repertoire, so to speak, for coming elections — the swearing-in of those people who man the booth that day,” she said.

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