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Battle over ballot drop boxes in Luzerne County

The question of ballot drop boxes was on the table Tuesday night in Luzerne County, leading to a contentious meeting at the county courthouse.

LUZERNE COUNTY, Pa. — A meeting that began Tuesday night at 5:30 p.m. lasted hours longer than anticipated, with dozens of citizens and council members weighing in on the future of ballot drop boxes in Luzerne County.

Luzerne County Council member Stephen Urban proposed an ordinance that, if passed, would prohibit the county from paying to put drop boxes in place.

The county has used five boxes in previous elections. Concerned residents say the move could limit voting access, especially for people with disabilities.

"I've been handicapped for the last ten years, so I've been using a paper ballot for that long. It gave me time to research candidates to be sure I choose the person who will advocate bests for my interests as a woman, a mother, a disabled person, and a daughter," said Beth Calpin, Shavertown.

"It is very troubling that with all the legitimate concerns facing the citizens of Luzerne County, this county has found ways to disenfranchise its citizens," said Jim Keating, Pittston.

Others were in favor of the measure, calling the move crucial for election integrity.

"Please do not use taxpayer money to fund a contentious issue. We are not okay with drop boxes because of ballot security," said Deborah Jordan, Sugarloaf Township.

"I want this to happen. I do want you guys to vote for it because it's the best thing possible," said Theodore Fitzgerald, Wilkes-Barre.

Councilman Urban called ballot drop box surveillance into question.

"We don't own all the cameras that are actually on these boxes or supposedly on these boxes. There's five drop boxes around this county. If you want to make this fair and secure for everybody, do all 76 municipalities in this county," said Stephen Urban, Luzerne County Council.

Other residents believe the ballot drop boxes are part of a fair and secure voting system, suggesting the councilman was motivated by political ideologies and falsehoods.

"This meeting is about so much more than a budget issue. It is about an election and people's voices," said Cara Krueger, Plains Township.

After more than two hours of debate, the council members cast their votes, striking down the proposal by a 6 to 5 margin.

While the motion did not carry, there was an outpouring of comments for and against ballot drop boxes in Luzerne County. 

Several council members suggested this issue will remain a topic of discussion as we approach the November elections.

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