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Professor offers insight into Luzerne County election mess

Newswatch 16's Elizabeth Worthington spoke to a professor from Wilkes University about Luzerne County's election problems.

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — It's been a hot topic in Professor Benjamin Toll's classes at Wilkes University since the headlines broke: Luzerne County ran out of ballot paper on Election Day.

It quickly became a national story.

"Everyone pays more attention to what happens here, and as a result, when things don't go as they should, it makes more attention be placed on this area," Toll said.

Many voters were turned away at the polls and told to come back later. Toll's wife was one of them.

Voting hours in the county were extended to 10 p.m.

Now, people are asking if this is a case of poor planning or if something illegal took place.

"If one could prove that people running the election were intentionally not following the rules and that they were especially intentionally doing so to favor one side or the other, that would be a crime. But everything that we've seen happen, all the evidence would indicate that they were doing the best with a really bad situation," Toll said.

That could be up to the county district attorney to determine. The board of elections voted unanimously Monday night to refer the issue to his office.

But since he can't comment on an investigation before it is complete, Toll offered some legal insight.

We asked him what legal recourse candidates or voters have in this situation.

"Legally, what they did by allowing people to vote until 10 p.m. was enough to give you that chance to go back and vote if you wanted to. Are there any opportunities for recourse? Not really. But that doesn't mean people feel like their voice was heard."

That was made clear by the number of people who showed up to the board meeting Monday night which ended up going well over three hours.

Elections bureau members did not attend the meeting, saying they needed to focus on counting the votes. They will also be conducting an internal investigation.

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