Editor’s note: On December 11th, the Warren Times Observer published an article about the County’s response to Constance Zaffino’s letter requesting an investigation of the November 5th election. The Times Observer did not publish Ms. Zaffino’s letter. The full text of that letter is published below.
November 18, 2019
The Honorable Maureen A. Skerda
204 Fourth Ave.
Warren, PA 16365
Dear Judge Skerda,
I am writing to you with concerns regarding the recent Municipal Elections held on November 5, 2019. The Department of State has been contacted and they advised that you as the President Judge, the District Attorney, and the Election Board should be contacted to request an investigation. A copy of this letter will be delivered to the District Attorney. Due to the Election Board being employees of the county I do not feel they are able to be impartial in this matter. Their salaries and working conditions are greatly influenced positively /negatively by the board of Commissioners. There are numerous concerns expressed by not only me, but also by other citizens of Warren County. I will try to be succinct in listing the concerns.
- The lack of advertising the fact that there were to be new machines for voting. There was an article on the day of the election in the Times Observer. Many residents do not subscribe to this publication. There was a notice on Facebook on the Warren County page on 10/31/19. Despite being a frequent visitor to this page I did not see this information until November 9, 2019. When the Commissioners were looking to replace the machines there were demonstrations at the library. Why was this not possible prior to a very important election?
- The lack of adequate number of machines at each precinct. Most precincts had their machine numbers cut in half. Commissioner Eggleston stated on 11/6/19 that this was his decision to reduce cost.
- The lack of paper specific for the machines. I was notified by Freehold that there were 30 sheets in each of their 2 machines. When that paper was used they were unable to reach the Voter Registration Office. The township supervisor was contacted and opened the office and got copy paper. The lead person for Freehold was also not present due to a death in her family. An untrained person was put in charge of that precinct. Conewango (at Starbrick ) had 100 sheets of paper for their machines and used that prior to noon. I did learn that any paper is supposed to work in the machines, however Lisa Rivett reported (on November 8, 2019) a problem with the regular copy paper scanning.
- The new machines report an error if you do not vote for as many candidates as possible in each category. “You have undervoted” with a hazard sign comes up on the screen. It made me reexamine my ballot. I wonder how many people cast additional votes to make the warning go away. It does not warn you if you have overvoted.
- The lack of paper ballots at polling sites was a concern. For instance, Pleasant Township ran out of paper ballots around 2:30pm and only received more after my daughter called Voter Registration and requested more. They received them after 5pm. Lisa Rivett admitted on November 8 that they did not have enough and she was making them on the copy machines at the courthouse.
- Extremely long lines at the polling sites- many well over an hour (what I experienced when voting) and up to 2 hours at Holy Redeemer. Many people returned several times trying to vote. Many people gave up trying to vote due to long lines, family obligations, employment obligations. They were not offered paper ballots by polling people. People outside of the polling sites did begin to tell people to request paper ballots so they were able to vote.
- There were numerous printers that broke down throughout the day. There were delays in having them replaced which caused delays in people being able to vote.
- There were machines that did not work when turned on at 7am. The machines at Pleasant Township did not work for up to 45 minutes preventing people on their way to work from voting.
- A gentleman from Freehold was present for several hours at the counting of write in and absentee ballots. He claimed there were handwritten votes on copy paper that were put into the ballot boxes. I was present from 9 am on November 8, 2019 until approximately 12:30am on November 9, 2019 when the count concluded. There were no such ballots viewed.
- Warrenvotes.com is administered by Commissioner Eggleston. I questioned who had input the votes into that site for this election. Lisa Rivett answered “one of my helpers”. There was an increase of over 2000 votes on this site from Wednesday November 6 – Thursday November 7. Lisa claimed initially there were over 2400 write ins. She then stated the numbers were increased due to paper ballots and absentee ballots. She then stated this was due to problems scanning ballots. She stated that numerous ballots would not scan and had to be copied to get them to scan. That defies logic in my opinion. A poor original is not going to produce an acceptable copy.
- Write in ballots with incorrect first names for me were not counted. I understood the standard to be ‘intent”. There were ballots for Carol, Cathy, Cindy Zaffino. I advised that I was the only Zaffino in all of Warren County running for office. In fact, I was running a very public write in campaign. They did not allow these to be counted. They did allow misspelling of my last name and only my last name. However, in Pine Grove there was a gentleman running for Township Supervisor by the name of Charles Morrison. Charlie , Charles, Chuck all were accepted . So was Pee Wee (no last name) as he goes by this “nickname”. After the election I heard from a citizen (not in the room) that heard about this discrepancy and was appalled that Pee Wee was acceptable, but the wrong first name with the correct last name was not. I explained I could not really object during the count as the election board has the final say.
- Lisa Rivett stated she had several groups of helpers the night of election. There were 3 groups. Dan Glotz and Ed Burris were a group, Pam Matve and Elizabeth Smaeder was another group, and Lori Dunlap and Stephanie Reagle was another group. I have legitimate concerns about several of these people maintaining professional boundaries as they have displayed a willingness to do other’s bidding. I will not elaborate in this document, but would be willing to explain that statement in person.
My intent is to not have these issues occur again. I believe they all had the effect of suppressing voting.
CC: Warren County District Attorney