A Lehigh County ballot box is seen at the Whitehall Township Municipal building before the May 17 primary (Photo by Donna Fisher/Armchair Lehigh Valley).
By Robert H. Orenstein
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Lehigh County will provide ballot drop-off boxes in five locations without extra security measures, despite a lawsuit claiming the lack of monitors at each location means voters can deliver more than one ballot in violation of state law.
On Tuesday, the county Election Board approved the plan for the Nov. 8 election, said Tim Benyo, the county’s chief election official.
In a letter to the Election Board on Monday, District Attorney Jim Martin recommended that the county station workers at the five locations to ensure that residents do not turn in more than one ballot, unless authorized to do so.
“I strongly recommend that all five drop box locations be monitored by employees of the Voter Registration Office,” he wrote, adding the county received $1.2 million to assist with mail-in voting logistics that could be tapped to pay for monitors.
Benyo said the board did not discuss Martin’s recommendation at the meeting.
Lehigh County ballot drop-off locations:
- Whitehall Township Municipal Building, 3219 MacArthur Road, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.
- Lehigh County Authority lobby, 1053 Spruce Road, Allentown, 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. weekdays.
- Fountain Hill Borough Building, 941 Long St., 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
- Lehigh County Government Center, 17 S. 7th St., Allentown, 24/7 at the main entrance.
- Macungie Borough Building, 21 Locust St., 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
However, the county’s ballot drop boxes have been much discussed and also litigated this year.
Before the May 17 primary, Martin completed an investigation that determined, based on video surveillance, at least 288 people deposited multiple ballots in the November 2021 election. Three weeks before the May 17 primary, Martin, a Republican, announced he would deploy county detectives and video surveillance of the five locations to ensure people didn’t turn in more than one ballot without authorization.
In his Monday letter, Martin wrote that “there were zero instances observed of more than one ballot being deposited” when county detectives were present.
America First Legal – an advocacy group led by Stephen Miller and Mark Meadows, former top staffers in the Trump administration – sued county election officials Sept. 1 to ensure they follow state law and ensure that a person drops off only one ballot, unless authorized to deliver one for someone else. The county should station people to monitor activity at the five ballot box locations, the same recommendation made by Martin.
A Lehigh County court hearing on the suit was scheduled for Monday of this week but was postponed to Oct. 7; the county agreed not to set up the ballot drop boxes before then.
It turns out the county didn’t plan to make the boxes available until Oct. 24 anyway, which is slightly more than two weeks before the election. That has been standard practice since the county made ballot boxes available over the last few election cycles.
Martin and the lawsuit both suggested that the box at the Lehigh County Government Center in Allentown not be open 24/7. Martin said security is a concern. The county still intends to keep that box open day and night.
Counties take different approaches to security measures.
For example, Northampton County did not assign people to monitor its ballot boxes, but the areas are under video surveillance, Becky Bartlett, deputy director of administration for the county, said earlier this year.
Bucks County has assigned a clerk to each of the 11 ballot box locations for when the areas are open, said James T. O’Malley, the county’s deputy director of public information. The areas are also under video surveillance.
Robert H. Orenstein is a reporter for Armchair Lehigh Valley, where this story first appeared. Reporter Katherine Reinhard contributed to this story.
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