LUZERNE COUNTY, Pa. — Members of the United States Congress from both sides of the aisle learned about the paper shortage on Election Day in Luzerne County in November. They heard testimony from several people, including those affected by it and those seeking to ensure it doesn't happen again.
The first group of people to testify included former Congressional Candidate Jim Bognet. The Republican from the Hazleton area was on the ballot in some precincts affected by the paper shortage.
Lawmakers also heard from a lawyer for the Republican National Committee, the executive director from a progressive advocacy group called Action Together NEPA, and someone with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
A second group of witnesses included Luzerne County voters who traveled to Washington to tell their stories about Election Day and then describe what they did to find out what went wrong.
Republicans and Democrats on the Committee on House Administration said they were surprised by the paper shortage and believe voters deserve to know why it happened.
"They absolutely deserve answers. This is catastrophic," said Rep. Joe Morelle, a Democrat from New York. "In my view, this is a complete breakdown of whatever happened. I don't know what happened. I sadly haven't learned anything about what happened."
"I've not heard anybody allege that a crime has occurred here. What I've heard alleged is there was malfeasance in office, negligence, and incompetence," said Rep. Morgan Griffith, a Republican from Virginia.
The committee leaders described this hearing as an effort to see if there was any voter suppression and to determine who was ultimately responsible for the paper shortage.
"I think everybody on the committee wants good elections for our entire country. I mean, I don't want to make this a Republican or Democratic issue. What happened in this county was abysmal, flat out abysmal," said Rep. Greg Murphy, a Republican from North Carolina.
The committee wants answers as to why it happened, and so do the voters from Luzerne County who traveled to Washington to testify.
"A complete lack of respect and understanding of what it really is to be a public servant and the correlation of public service to transparency and accountability — words that I've heard here this morning," said Luzerne County voter Benjamin Herring.
These voters testified that they've asked Luzerne County election officials for answers, only to be ignored.
"I believe that should be prudent that somebody at least gives some type of an answer. Simply saying that they don't have to answer the question or ignoring the questions from the public is not acceptable," added Herring.
The acting director of elections for Luzerne County in November of 2022, the chair of the Board of Elections in the county, and the council president were all invited to testify at this hearing. Members of the committee said they declined at the guidance of the Luzerne County solicitor due to an open investigation into what happened by the Luzerne County district attorney.
Committee members believe they will need to wait until that investigation is over before any questions voters have will be answered, but it still took time to hear from voters about the leadership structure of Luzerne County.
"That bureau is underneath the county manager?" asked Rep. Morelle. "And I understand that the county manager resigned just a couple of days after the election?"
Voters told the committee they have little faith in county leadership heading into the May primary.
"No, sir, I do not believe that the voters in Luzerne County are confident whatsoever. In fact, I thought our confidence level was low to start the last election. It's at an all-time low," said James Walsh, a voter from Ross Township.
Some committee members believe Luzerne County officials from the elections bureau and the county solicitor should be subpoenaed to testify in front of Congress, but all present agreed another hearing should take place after the district attorney's office concludes with its investigation.
We tried to ask the DA about the progress there, but he declined to comment.
If you want to watch the hearing for yourself, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking here.