COUNTY ELECTION BUREAU RIGHT ON ABSENTEE BALLOTS

Wilkes-Barre, Times Leader

Friday, September 10, 2004     Page: 7A

CONSIDERING THE SNAFUS of the past, the heated debate of the present and the likelihood of rancor in the future, the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections did the right thing by playing it safe this week.

The county office – no stranger to controversy in previous elections under different management – decided to strictly interpret the state election calendar that says Sept. 13 is the earliest date applications for absentee ballots can be accepted.

The department has already received loads. Leonard Piazza, director of the office, attributes the rush to a Bush-Cheney campaign flier that encourages people to apply.

While some counties are holding on to the requests until the appropriate day, Piazza said Luzerne County hasn’t done that in the past and he’s not doing it now.

Foul, cried attorney Jim Haggerty, Kingston mayor and local spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign. Rather than follow the letter of the law, Haggerty wants Piazza to interpret state election guidelines and emulate other Pennsylvania counties. Of course, there’s the Kerry-Edwards campaign where a spokesperson considered the early applications a possible ruse to confuse voters.

We think both sides should take a deep breath. And Piazza should stick to a good, fair decision and play it safe.

The county election office is sending letters to people who sent applications early, along with a new application for an absentee ballot. It will cost the county in materials, postage and labor, but it’s the right thing to do.

We don’t think Luzerne County voters who took the initiative once to get a ballot, will surrender that right with the modest challenge of filing a second time. Voters deserve more credit than either side gives them.

We suggest officials from the Bush-Cheney campaign get real and follow the rules. The Sept. 13 date is on the election calendar of the Pennsylvania Department of State. After the botched results of the last presidential election, it’s appropriate for Piazza to strictly follow the calendar, and avoid the kind of interpretations that divide electorates. The kind that made Florida the punch line for election jokes everywhere.

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