Hours-long wait amounts to voter suppression, Democrat tells commissioners

Reginald Cheong-Leen doubts there are enough polling places: Commissioners say they follow the law but promise to investigate


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  • Reggie Cheong-Leen (Photo by Anya Tikka)




  • Poll watcher Lorna Cuevas (Photo by Anya Tikka)




  • The Pike County Commissioners hear complaints about lines at the polls (Photo by Anya Tikka)



By Anya Tikka

— It was unacceptable some people had to wait for two hours standing up to vote, Reginald Cheong-Leen told Pike County commissioners at their June 7 meeting.

“It adds up to voter suppression,” he said.

Cheong-Leen, a member of the Delaware Valley Democratic Club, asked about the number of voting machines per person in the county.

The county follows the rules, said the commissioners and county solicitor Thomas Farley. But they promised look into the problem.

Cheong-Lee cited state law.

“PA law says there should be a maximum of 1,200 voters per voting precinct," he said. In Pike County, 11 out of 18 voting precincts have more than 1,200 voters.”

He listed the precincts:

Blooming Grove — 3,238 voters

Delaware 1 — 2,160, Delaware 2 — 2,249

Dingman 1- 3,811

Dingman 2 — 3, 537,

Greene — 2,157

Lackawaxen 1 — 1,706

Lackawaxen 2 — 1,619

Lehman 1 — 3,050

Lehman 2 — 3,200

Palmyra — 2,446

Shohola — 1,617

Westfall — 1,619

He said he wasn’t sure the numbers were accurate, adding, "You can verify.”

There should be one voting machine per 600 voters, according to state law, Cheong-Leen said.

“I do believe there are some places where people have to wait two hours to vote," he said. "I think that’s a very bad way to discourage people from voting. So I was wondering if there’s a simpler way to let people vote easier.”

Paper ballots, which are allowed in case of power failure, may be a solution, he said.

“That would give the people a chance to vote instead of walking away and saying, 'I can’t wait that long,'” he said.

Commissioners' Chair Matt Osterberg said people would still have to stand in line for the paper ballot.

He said the problem occurs mainly during presidential elections, when many people vote who don't do so regularly.

“We have talked about adding more precincts," Osterberg said. First you have to find the locations and then the people to man them, he said.

“We’re not opposed to this," he said.

Another possibility is to get more voting machines, he said.

Poll watchers opting outFarley said the county does comply with state law and never before had such a long wait during an election. One major challenge is getting enough volunteers to man the voting stations, he said.

“The elderly don't want to do it anymore,” he said. “I will look into this. The county is always working to make sure everyone gets to vote.”

He agreed it’s not a problem every year, but only every four years.

Cheong-Leen’s reply was testy.

“Just because you have the problem every four years, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a problem," he said.

Commissioner Steve Guccini said he doubted some of the numbers cited as well as the paper ballot option.

“My understanding is once you’ve gone to electronic voting, then you can't use paper ballots," he said.

Farley agreed. Use one or the other, a mandate by the state, which pushed counties to go electronic, he said. Paper ballots are still used for provisional voting, but counting can be a nightmare, he said. But he, too, promised to check it out.

Lorna Cuevas of Hemlock Farms said she worked as a poll watcher, and it's hard work if you need to stay all day. Older people can't stand for a long time, she said.

“The lines were long, it never stopped,” she said. “In a presidential election, I feel sorry for those people. It was an awful day. It never stopped.”

Farley said it was difficult to get people to sit at the poll station from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and then count till 11 p.m. A generation of volunteers is opting out, he said.

Cuevas said, “It’s everybody's right to vote, and it’s your responsibility to make it work!”

“We will look into these concerns," Osterberg said. "There’s a lot more to this than just extending voting places.”

“The lines were long, it never stopped. In a presidential election, I feel sorry for those people. It was an awful day. It never stopped.”
Lorna Cuevas, poll watcher


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