County Election Board reverses earlier decision on ballots

Jan. 25—WILKES-BARRE — The Luzerne County Election Board Wednesday reversed its recent decision to change the way voters can address mail ballot defects on Election Day.

At a special meeting Wednesday morning, the board voted 4-1 to reverse the decision and allow voters to cast a provisional ballot at the polls if their mail-in ballot was disqualified.

Voting for the motion were board members Danny Schramm, Board Chairwoman Denise Williams, Audrey Serniak and Jim Mangan. Board member Alyssa Fusaro voted against the motion.

Schramm requested the special meeting to withdraw his support for the recent change, saying he could no longer provide the vote needed to make the change. Schramm said he changed his mind after reading a new communication from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania urging the board to reconsider its decision.

In scheduling the special meeting, Board Chairwoman Denise Williams said she wanted to avoid waiting for a decision, if possible, because the election bureau already has started identifying Jan. 31 special election ballots with outer envelope deficiencies and needs a directive from the board to explain options to voters.

The Jan. 31 special election to replace former state Sen. John Gordner impacts voters in 18 county municipalities.

Fusaro had proposed the change requiring voters to appear at the election bureau at the county's Penn Place Building in downtown Wilkes-Barre to address a mail ballot deficiency on Election Day instead of the past option to cast a provisional ballot at their polling place.

Her motion passed at the board's Jan. 18 meeting with support from board Mangan and Schramm, while Williams and Serniak voted no.

On Wednesday, Williams said, "I have no doubt that the earlier decision would have resulted in us being sued. It was a violation of state and federal law and the state Constitution."

Fusaro said she voted against Wednesday's motion because of the way the wording was structured, not because she disagreed with the decision.

Reach Bill O'Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.