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Commissioners Question Voting Machine Funding; Governor Wolf Announces Alternative

Wednesday, July 10, 2019 @ 12:07 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

commissionersCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Clarion County Commissioners Wayne Brosius and Ed Heasley offered reactions on Tuesday morning on Governor Tom Wolf’s veto of a Senate Bill that would have provided some funding for mandated new voting machines.

[PHOTO: Ed Heasley, Ted Tharan (not present at the meeting), and Wayne Brosius.]

(After the Clarion County Commissioners’ board meeting on Tuesday morning, Governor Wolf issued a press release stating that a bond issue could be used to provide funding. Such funding would not have to be approved by the House or Senate.)

Heasley said that projected costs for the new voting machines for Clarion County are from $500,000.00 to $700,000.00.

“We’re disappointed about not receiving the funding,” said Heasley after the veto.  “We were looking forward to the 60 percent reimbursement, so we could proceed knowing how much we were or were not going to have. Otherwise, the taxpayers of Clarion County would have to pay for it. The state house approved funding and the senate added things to the bill and obviously, the governor was not satisfied, and he vetoed it.

“We’re hopeful that within the next few days or weeks with a plan to fund this.  If not, we’re prepared to lease or purchase the machines and have the funds available.  We’re just hopeful it doesn’t end up being similar to another state unfunded mandate.”

Brosius also questioned the veto decision and hinted that politics were involved.

“From my understanding the two main reasons why he vetoed it was because he was not in favor of getting rid of the straight-party vote in Pennsylvania. There are only eight states left that still do straight-party voting.  The statement was that by doing away with the straight-party voting it will decrease voter participation in the election.

“In my opinion, that’s a cop-out because – how is pushing one button to vote for maybe a dozen or more races without even looking at those races? How is that increasing voter participation when you don’t even know who you’re voting for or what office? It just doesn’t make sense to me. I think he (Governor) thinks the straight-party vote benefits his party. 

“I expressed this to his representative — I’m tired of the party – the decisions are made down there (Harrisburg) based on “will it help my party?” – and I’m just not talking about the Democrats, it’s the Republicans, too. Why not vote for what is best for the Commonwealth.  Instead, we’re not getting any money, but they could still work something out.”

Janice Horn, of the Clarion County League of Women Voters, questioned the status of a review of possible new voting machines because they are required no matter what funding is available.  Heasley said that the current appointed election board can make recommendations, but no decision is likely until after the fall election.  (Commissioners are normally on the election board, but since they are all running for election, they are not currently on the board.)

The late-breaking news release on Tuesday from the Governor stated:

“Governor Tom Wolf announced today the commonwealth will begin work to issue a bond that will assist counties with purchasing new voting systems with a paper trail. The new systems have enhanced security to help guard against hacking and produce an anonymous paper record so voters can verify their choices are correctly marked before casting their ballot. Paper records also allow officials to conduct the most accurate recounts and audits of election results.”

View the full release here.

In other news at the commissioner meeting, Marcellus funding to Clarion County is increasing.

Clarion County received a check last week for $158,572.64 related to Marcellus activity in Clarion County.

The total amount includes Legacy – $40,227.57; Stripper Wells – $35,289.73; and Marcellus Shale – $83,055.34.

Clarion County also receives Marcellus Bridge money and that check is usually received in August.  In 2018, Clarion County received $57,023.49; in 2017, $46,189.87; and in 2016, $51,849.14.

Chief Clerk Taylor Best noted the regular Marcellus Shale money from the three prior years included; 2018 – $74,237.85, 2017 – $46,848.96, and 2016 – $57,504.96. 2019 was the first year for Stripper Wells funding.

“The total amounts we have in the account right now including this new money we just got last week, and carryover from previous years for the Legacy, Bridge, and Stripper Wells is the $314,552.60 on the Treasurer’s Report,” Best said.

“This does not include the regular Marcellus Shale money (the $83,000.00) that’s kept separately, but there’s no carryover for the account, the total in it right now is the $83,055.34.”

In other business:

  • Commissioners approved Resolution Number 17, an application for a Multi-Modal Transportation Grant related to the Glassworks Business Park at the site of the former Owens-Illinois Glass plant.
    “They applied earlier and were told by DCED to scale back from their original proposal,” Clarion County Planner Kristi Amato said.

    “This grant centers on Grand Avenue and will include several improvements on it such as widening the street, a bike lane, sidewalks, and would also deal with a stormwater issue and street lighting. They are also talking about a bus stop near Eagle Park.”

  • Commissioners also approved a letter of support for Sligo Borough’s application for a DCED Multimodal Transportation Grant. The grant would replace a damaged footbridge connecting Sligo Borough with Sligo Elementary School and the COG pool-park. Sligo Borough has applied twice to PennDOT for the project. The footbridge was closed a few years ago at the start of school when deficiencies were noted. A floor covering for the footbridge was installed as a makeshift solution.
  • Commissioners approved a contract on behalf of CYS with Justice Works for truancy remediation services and supervised visitations with a term of July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019. The cost is broken down with Justice Works at $163,000.00 maximum and a county match of 10 percent. Why Try for $37,000.00 and a county match of 10 percent. NPP (Nurturing Parenting Program) for $50,000.00 and a county match of 10 percent. FGDM (Family Group Decision Making) for $50,000.00 and a county match of 5 percent. VIP (Violation Initiative Program) for $40,000.00 and a county match of 10 percent.

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