Special Election

Tredyffrin Special Election Supervisor candidates – Where do they stand on the digital billboard, historic preservation ordinance and transparency? Know before you vote!

How many of you know that there is a special election on November 6 to fill an at-large seat on Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors? And that for the first time in township history, both candidates running to fill the vacancy are former supervisors! 

The last time that there was a special election on the ballot in Tredyffrin Township was in May 2011; a highly contested race between Mike Heaberg (R) and Molly Duffy (D) to fill an interim supervisor seat, as a result of Warren Kampf’s election as PA State Representative. If you recall, the special election results were so close that the winner’s name changed when malfunctioning voting machines required ballot hand counting. Ultimately, Heaberg was declared the victor and in the general election match-up race the same year, he won a regular 4-year term.

Now seven and a half years later, township residents will be choosing a supervisor in the special election on Nov. 6. In the sea of political campaign lawn signs are a couple of locally familiar names – Republican Judy DiFilippo and Democrat Mark Freed are the special election candidates running to fill the vacated at-large seat on Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors.

Republican Sean Moir, a second term supervisor abruptly resigned last month, having moved from the township and therefore no longer eligible to serve. The term for the vacated seat runs through 2019. The good news for residents is that both DiFilippo and Freed are seasoned township supervisors – Judy served for twenty years, six as its chair and Mark completed one four year term (2014-17).

Whoever wins the upcoming election will determine the party majority on the Board of Supervisors. With the departure of Moir (R), there are three Republicans (Heather Greenberg, Paul Olson and Trip Lukens (and three Democrats (Murph Wysocki, Matt Holt and Kevin O’Nell) currently serving. Because so often local township votes come down on party lines, the impact of who fills the seventh seat could be significant and if Freed wins, it will mark the first time in township history for a Democrat-majority board of supervisors.

The township and its residents is embroiled in a serious issue that would forever change the landscape and village feel of Paoli – the proposed digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave. I remain troubled that as a community we were kept in the dark for 18-24 months while township supervisors discussed the proposed digital billboard. The public only learned at the 11th hour with the township solicitor Vince Donohue using words like “negotiations” and “settlement agreement” in advance of the Catalyst presentation. I, like many others took that to mean that the digital billboard was a fait accompli.

With nearly 2,500 signatures showing support for the Change.org petition to “BAN the Digital Billboard in Paoli”) and a GoFundMe exceeding its goal, the community is fully engaged.  The laws signs are scheduled for delivery this week!

It is critical that voters know where special election supervisor candidates DiFilippo and Freed stand on important township issues –  the proposed digital billboard, historic preservation ordinance and transparency in local government. The candidates received 3 questions from me and were asked to respond in 100 words or less to each question. The following are the questions and the candidate responses, in the order received.

Question #1: As you are aware, the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors is entertaining a proposal to construct a digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave. in Paoli. The community has been told by the township solicitor that Catalyst Outdoor Advertising will initiate legal proceedings if the digital billboard is not approved. If you are elected before the vote occurs, how will vote and why.

Candidate Judy DiFilippo (R) response: I do not support the proposal by Catalyst Outdoor Advertising to construct digital billboards at the Route 252/Lancaster Avenue intersection.  In addition to the concern for safety of the traveling public, in my opinion, the mass of the signs proposed is not appropriate on that site. They do not reflect the overall aesthetic desired in Tredyffrin and do not respect the existing structure and its significance. If there is a deficiency in the Township’s sign ordinance relating to digital signs, a moratorium should be considered on any future applications for digital billboard signs until the ordinance is corrected.

Candidate Mark Freed (D) response: I oppose the Catalyst digital billboard proposal.  This billboard is wrong for Tredyffrin Township and would result in the destruction of a valued historic resource.  I have opposed the billboard since the concept was first floated by Catalyst when I was on the Board of Supervisors. I advised both my fellow Board members and Catalyst of my grave concerns.  I have not seen anything in the recent presentations to change my opinion and remain opposed to Catalyst’s proposal.

Question #2: Unlike most Main Line townships, Tredyffrin does not currently have a historic preservation ordinance. Please comment as to whether or not you would support such a township ordinance and why.

Candidate Judy DiFilippo (R) response: The Township has an award-winning 2003 Historic Resource Survey that lists hundreds of historic buildings and it explains the historic and/or architectural significance for each.  Valley Forge National Historical Park lies within Tredyffrin. We have a significant link to the founding of our country.  We should be proud to share that history.  I support the creation of an ordinance that appreciates and protects our most significant historic resources. Pennsylvania’s Municipalities Planning Code and Chester County’s Planning Commission have tooIs available to help us do that, including adaptive reuse.  We can protect historic resources and still respect an individual’s property rights.

Candidate Mark Freed (D) response: I support a historic preservation ordinance that protects our Township’s valued historic resources.  We must recognize Tredyffrin’s rich historic heritage.  We must also be mindful of the rights of the owners of historic resources. I understand that the Historical Commission has proposed an ordinance amendment that would prohibit the demolition of designated historic resources unless reviewed by the Historical Commission and approved by the Board of Supervisors at a public hearing. This amendment would prevent the issuance of over-the-counter demolition permits that have resulted in almost immediate demolition of our historic resources.  It would be a significant step forward.

Question #3: The support for openness and transparency in local government often appears on candidate campaign literature. What does it mean to you for local government to be open and transparent? Please be specific.

Candidate Judy DiFilippo (R) response: Transparency means you abide by the Sunshine Law. Certain matters dealing with Township personnel or pending litigation can be discussed in Executive Session by the Board and the Solicitor. When Executive Session meetings are held, it is announced during the Public Meeting. All Township Commissions, Advisory Councils, and Boards must abide by the Sunshine Law as well because their decisions and recommendations also impact the Township.  Open discussion by the Board and with the public is the only place for decision-making. The public should be able to rely upon that and upon the trust given to the individuals they elect.

Candidate Mark Freed (D) response: To me, openness and transparency mean providing the public with information in a timely manner, giving the public the opportunity to express their views at public meetings and elsewhere, listening respectfully, responding forthrightly, and letting the public know that their voices have been heard and respected.  They mean being clear and direct with the public about the Board’s decision-making process.  They mean remembering that Board members serve the public.

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6 Weeks Until the General Election, Did Chester County Voter Services ‘Fix’ their Malfunctioning Voting Machines?

In 6 weeks, the voters of Chester County will go to the polls for the General Election.  Looking back to the Primary Election on May 17, do we have assurance from the Chester County Voter Services that there will be no repeat performance of malfunctioning voting machines?

Chester County Voter Services found irregularities in vote counts in over 100 precincts in Chester County due to equipment malfunctions.  But here in Tredyffrin Township, the outcome of the Special Election was dramatically affected by the malfunctioning machines.  If you recall, on election night, the results posted on the Chester County Voter Services website indicated that Molly Duffy (D) had a 44-vote lead over Mike Heaberg (R).  However, as irregularities in the Tredyffrin precinct counts emerged, a full manual recount was required.  It was discovered that 62 ballots were not counted by the voting machines. Adding to the mystery, was the discovery that all 62 uncounted ballots were Republican ballots.  In the final hand count, Heaberg emerged as the winner by a 2-vote margin.  Duffy and Heaberg, along with legal representation attended the manual recount and agreed to the reconciliation results.

But ‘why’ did the voting machines malfunction in the first place?  Do we as voters have an assurance that the problem has been corrected?  Is their confidence that our vote really will count on Election Day?

A follow-up report from Chester County Voter Services was published Friday, September 23 on their website.  However, it is interesting to note that the report is dated two months earlier — July 14, 2011.  Since the report is ‘To the Public’, wonder why it took so long for it to be ‘public’.

Chester County Voter Services conducted extensive testing. According to their findings, “It was discovered through our testing of those printed Republican Ballots that a dark blue “color bar” was printed outside the specified area on those ballots. Samples of these ballots were eventually sent to Election Systems & Software, Inc. in Birmingham, Alabama to review the specifications of the ballots printed by Dayton Legal Blank. ES&S was able to determine that the color bar printed on the Republican Ballots was printed outside the specified area on the ballot for any ES&S M-100 tabulator to properly function”.

The report further states “. . . the printed dark blue color bar printed on the Republican Ballots was the sole cause for the M-1000 to not read these invalidly printed Republican Ballots.”

In their closing remarks, the report from Chester County Voter Services states, “we will ensure that we maintain our electronic equipment on a routine yearly schedule and we will ensure our Primary Election ballots are printed in conformance with the ES&S ‘Color Stripe Specification’ ”

So we officially know ‘why’ the voting machines malfunctioned for the Primary Election – an alignment printing issue.

Voter Services promises that they will maintain the equipment on a yearly schedule.  I would feel more confident in the system if there was a degree of responsibility; plus assurance that they will run ‘test ballots’ through the voting machines prior to November’s General Election.

Elections are important and all votes count!  The ‘every vote counts’ importance was brought home to Tredyffrin voters in the Special Election race between Molly Duffy and Mike Heaberg where the winner was decided by 2 votes!

Mark your calendars for November 8 and plan on having your voice heard through your vote in the General Election.

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Steve Shapiro, Judge of Elections for Tredyffrin’s W-2 Precinct, Offers Step-by-Step Guide to Voting Procedures

To help us better understand our voting procedure, Steve Shapiro, the Judge of Elections for the W-2 precinct, has graciously provided us detailed notes below.  Steve’s explanation offers us the step-by-step guide to the voting procedure and to the close out at the end of an election day.  As I read his notes, it is clear that Steve takes extra steps to protect the voting system process and to insure the quality and accuracy of election results.  I know that all that read Community Matters, join me in thanking Steve for his thorough explanation . . . a great community service.  Thanks Steve!

Steve Shapiro
Judge of Elections
W-2 Precinct, Tredyffrin Township

Here is an overview of the voting process and the end-of-night procedures:

Before we open the polls, we set up the paper ballot scanner (the M-100) and the electronic machine (the iVotronic). We print out a tape from each showing that no votes have been cast on either machine.

During voting hours, we look up each voter in the Poll Books. If we find them, we have them sign the Poll Book. We also record their name in a different book, called the “Numbered List of Voters Book,” which contains a separate numbered line for each voter. The Numbered List of Voters Book allows us to easily determine, at the end of the day, how many voters signed-in and received a ballot (either paper or electronic). If a voter chooses to vote on a paper ballot, we record the number of the ballot next to his or her name in both the Poll Book and the Numbered List of Voters Book. If the voter chooses to vote electronically, we so indicate in both books. Here a sample of the Numbered List of Voters Book from our poll worker manual, click here.

After a paper ballot voter makes his or her selections, he or she takes the completed ballot to the M-100. An election worker removes the strip at the bottom of the ballot that contains the ballot number, and gives it to the voter as receipt. Now that the ballot number has been removed, the ballot becomes anonymous (it cannot be traced back to the voter) and the voter places the ballot into the machine.

If there are no problems with the ballot, the M-100 processes it and drops the ballot into a locked compartment for safe-keeping. If there are any errors on the ballot that prevent the scanner from reading it, the M-100 displays an error message and returns the ballot (at least, that’s what it’s supposed to do). If there are any over-votes on the ballot (for instance, a voter votes for 3 candidates in a race where he only may vote for 2), the M-100 will display an error message and ask the voter whether he wants to either accept the ballot as-is (thereby invalidating the vote in the race in which he over-voted) or take the ballot back and correct it. Here is the summary of the possible M-100 scanner errors from the poll worker manual – click here.

If a paper ballot voter makes a mistake and needs to correct his or her ballot, we issue a new ballot, change the ballot number for that voter in both the Poll Book and the Numbered List of Voters Book, and keep the spoiled ballot so we can account for it when we close the polls.

An electronic voter makes his selections on the iVotronic’s touchscreen and presses the “Vote” button when he or she is done. The iVotronic will not let a voter over-vote or otherwise mess up his ballot, so we never have to deal with spoiled electronic ballots.

At the end of the night, the first thing we do it process the absentee ballots. The County delivers absentee ballots to us in sealed envelopes with the voter’s signature on the outside of the envelope. We first check the Poll Books to make sure that the voter did not vote in person and that the signature on the envelope matches the signature in the Poll Book. If everything checks out, we open the outer envelope, and remove the sealed inner envelope that contains the ballot. We then mix up the sealed inner envelopes to anonymise them before opening them, removing the ballots and scanning them into the M-100.

Next, we close the voting machines. For the iVotronic, all that entails is a few presses on the touchscreen to lock down the voting function on the machine. We then print off a closing tape that shows the total ballots cast and the number of votes each candidate received. The tape shows only totals — it does not show how each voter voted. We also remove the data card on which the votes are electronically recorded.

The M-100 requires more effort. First, we print out a tape that shows the total ballots cast and the number of votes each candidate received. Then we remove the data card on which the votes are electronically recorded. Next, we open the machine and remove the ballots. The M-100 deposits any ballots with write-in votes into a different compartment. We review those ballots and hand-write the write-in votes onto a tally sheet. We then add the ballots with write-in votes to the rest of the ballots and count all of them by hand to see how many ballots we have (in a primary we have the added step of separating the ballots by party before we count them).

Once the hand count is completed, we fill in a “General Returns of Votes Cast” form. Here is a link to a sample General Return from the poll worker manual:

The form is basically a worksheet that allows us to ascertain whether we have accounted for all of the paper ballots. We add up the number of paper ballots cast, the number of spoiled ballots and the number of left-over ballots. That sum should equal the number the ballots the County delivered to us at the beginning of the day. We also add the number of paper ballots cast to the number of electronic ballots cast to come up with the total number of ballots cast. If, during this process, the numbers do not add up, you are supposed to flag that for Voter Services by writing a note in the “Remarks” box on the General Return.

At this point, it is my practice to check the total number of ballots cast on the General Return against the following to make sure they jive: (1) the number of voters listed in the Numbered List of Voters Book; and (2) the number of ballots cast as reported on the machine tapes. That is how we discovered the problem last week — the number of ballots cast on the General Return did not match the number of ballots cast on the tapes. I concede that neither the General Return nor the poll worker instructions direct us to make that comparison (maybe it should), but it seems like common sense to me. In addition, all poll workers take an oath before we open the polls, and I believe that checking all of the numbers for discrepancies is consistent with the part of the oath in which I swear to faithfully perform my duties to the best of my judgment and ability. A copy of the oath from the poll worker manual is here.

After we discovered the problem last Tuesday, we made a note in the remarks box on the General Return. I also emailed Voter Services and copied a representative of each party (that is not required, but it seemed like good practice).

As for the poll workers’ signatures, even if the numbers on the General Return do not add up and we leave a note for Voter Services, we still have to sign the General Return. So we are not certifying that the numbers are correct; rather we are saying that the reported numbers are what we counted. Likewise, although we have to sign the tapes from the machines, we are are not certifying that the numbers on the tape are accurate. We could not possibly know, for instance, whether the M-100 scanned the votes properly. Rather, by signing the tapes we are saying that these are the tapes we printed from the machines.

Finally, we place the General Return and the data cards into a small pouch, which we seal with a security tab. We place the paper ballots into a large pouch, which we also seal with a security tab. We then drive both pouches, along with all of the other election supplies, to Voter Services in West Chester. The unofficial results you see on election night are taken, I think, from the data cards (the tapes are just a print out of the information on the data cards).

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The Cost of a Ballot Challenge in Tredyffrin Township . . . $2,614.60 plus posting a bond fee

The closeness of the election results, coupled with reports of voting machine malfunctions, has led to speculation about a possible vote recount in the Duffy-Heaberg special election.  As reported on the Chester County’s Department of Voter Services website, the unofficial election results indicate that Democrat Molly Duffy received 2,266 votes and Republican Mike Heaberg received 2,226 votes.

I have received several notices stating that the Republicans were challenging the election results of the special election and calling for a vote recount so . . .  I did some investigating in hopes of better understanding the process.  First off, I called the Chester County Department of Voter Services.  As of 3:30 PM today, Thursday, there has been no ballot challenge petition received for the special election or any other race in Tredyffrin Township.  Further, as was explained to me by a voter service staffer, it would be unlikely that such a petition would be received at this point in the election certification process. Why?  Here’s what I learned from a Chester County’s voter service staff member on the certification process.

The voter service ‘computation committee’ will meet for the first time tomorrow (Friday) to begin work on the 2011 Primary Election certification process.  This committee will take 2-3 days to sort through all the paperwork from the 226 voting precincts in the county (Tredyffrin Township has 17 voting precincts).  After sorting the paperwork, the committee begins with write-ins, absentee votes and reconciliation of ballots from each precinct in the county.  To complete the certification process will take the computation committee 4-6 weeks.  According to the voter services representative, it would be unlikely that someone would challenge the vote count until the certification process is completed.  It would appear that a candidate should wait until the election results are certified and pronounced  official. I asked if the reported malfunction voting machines would pose an additional time delay and the response was not likely.

Curious, I asked if there was such a thing as an ‘automatic’ recount of votes if the certification process indicated that a race was very close, say just a few votes separating the candidates.  The answer was no; there is no automatic recount; regardless of how close the election results.

Next question, how much does it cost to petition for an election recount?  I discovered that Chester County Department of Voter Services does not handle the money side of a ballot challenge and I was referred to the Chester County Prothonotary’s Office.  I called the Prothonotary’s Office and spoke to Elizabeth Doan, First Deputy.  Deputy Doan explained that the fee schedule for a ballot challenge is $153.80 per precinct.  Since the Duffy-Heaberg special election was for an at-large township seat, the petition charge is $153.80 for each of Tredyffrin’s 17 precincts or a total cost of $2,614.60.  Additionally, there is a bond fee of $50, which the applicant would need to petition to have returned.  It was unclear if the $50 bond fee was per precinct or a one-time fee; Doan suggested that I contact an attorney for clarification.

What did I learn from this exercise?  It would not appear to make sense to petition for a ballot challenge until after Chester County Department of Voter Services completes its certification process.  The computation committee has to first complete their certifying process before they can do a recount and that would be 4-6 weeks from this point.  I was cautioned throughout my conversation with voter service staff that the election result numbers on county website are unofficial until they are certified.

I hope that this clarifies the ballot challenge process and offers a timeline for the election results certification and the cost of a petition process in Chester County. 

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Today is Primary Election Day . . . Why Vote?

Candidates come and candidates go. Elections are won and lost. It matters that you vote.  It is your voice – and the only person who can silence your voice is you.  So applaud, complain, march, protest, petition . . . these are your rights but, without your vote, they are meaningless actions, backed up by nothing. 

Why vote?  So you can decide.  Why let other people decide what is best for you when you have a voice:  the vote.  It’s your right. 

Why vote? Young people, women and underrepresented groups all fought hard for the right to vote.  Even today, there are countries where people are still fighting for the right to vote.  Vote in honor of those who can’t.   

Why vote?  It is the way we change things. That is the way we reform the system and exercise our responsibilities.

Why vote?  Because every voice counts.  Try and appreciate the power of voting by exercising it!

Bottom Line:  You should vote because you can!

Your right to vote is your right to expression and opinion. Do not take your right for granted.

Today is Primary Day and the Special Election  . . . Did You Vote?

You have a voice, use it by voting.  Polls open until 8 PM

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