Greene Voting Machines

ES&S representative Sarah Mahon is shown in this file photo demonstrating the voting process with Greene County’s new voting machines that were first used in the 2019 primary. (Photo by Mike Jones)

A Waynesburg councilwoman expressed concerns during the Greene County commissioners’ Oct. 8 meeting about security at polling locations across the county and what the commissioners are doing to prevent potential voter intimidation during the Nov. 3 general election.

Lynne Snyder told the commissioners she is worried about the possibility of outsiders with weapons patrolling outside polling places in an attempt to intimidate voters after she saw several people carrying long guns across the street from the county courthouse earlier this year during a Juneteenth event in Waynesburg.

“What are you guys going to do to block voter intimidation at the polls? The brandishing of the weapons – I don’t think it’s necessary here in our town,” Snyder said.

She asked Commissioners Mike Belding and Betsy Rohanna McClure if the county planned to hire security guards or place constables at each location to ensure voters can enter without being harassed or threatened. There are 42 precincts in Greene County, although some of them are combined into one polling location.

“I know there’s a lot of older people in this town that are not comfortable with people brandishing weapons publicly, and aren’t going to be comfortable going to the polls if people are (carrying weapons),” Snyder said. “I want to know what you’re going to do to make the voters feel comfortable voting and not intimidated.”

Belding said they attended a County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania meeting Wednesday in which election security was discussed, but that they may not be able to provide a constable at every location.

“None of the counties in Pennsylvania have enough resources to put security, as you mention, at every polling place,” he said.

Belding, who said he has heard no rumors about “Second Amendment activists” patrolling polling places, suggested voters call 911 to report any issues. He said the commissioners have met with local police departments and sheriff’s deputies to discuss potential problems so “there will be a heightened awareness” leading up to the election.

State law asserts police officers are not to be within 100 feet of a polling station, but they can respond if they are called due to a disturbance or intimidation.

“There’s a very fine line between putting a uniformed security – whatever the brand of that individual is – in front of a polling place and the freedom of people to walk into that,” Belding said. “Some will be just as concerned with that visual perspective.”

Snyder noted that it’s not unusual for constables to be stationed at polling places to monitor voting activities.

“I just want to make sure people are comfortable,” she said.

Greene County Chief Clerk Jeff Marshall said not all of the elected constable positions are filled across the county, making it impossible for every polling station to have one.

Belding asked residents who “have been stewing on a problem” to come with an answer or solution to help them make decisions.

Snyder responded that it was the county’s leaders, specifically the commissioners, to find the solutions.

“It’s your job to provide the solutions to our problems,” she said. “If we bring you a problem, you’re the ones that are in charge, you’re the ones that are supposed to offer us solutions to our problems. I’m willing to work with you, but I don’t have a solution to that particular problem because I’m not in (county) office.”

Snyder raised her concerns at the end of the commissioners’ voting meeting Thursday morning about an hour before the board of elections convened at the 4-H building in Greene County Fairgrounds to discuss election preparations. The three commissioners are seated on the elections board, although Blair Zimmerman did not attend either meeting because of a personal matter.

About 25 people attended the elections board meeting in which new elections director Judy Snyder gave an outline of what she’s been doing to prepare for mail-in ballots and in-person voting.

Scott Kelley, the county’s chief financial officer who is retiring at the end of the year, gave a demonstration of the voting machines and counting system that debuted in the 2019 primary.

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