Wilkes-Barre, Times Leader

Friday, November 05, 2004     Page: 7A

THERE WERE MORE that a few challenges on Election Day, and we’re not referring to poll watchers questioning voters.

The challenges came with high anxiety, high interest and a substantial voter turnout. In Luzerne County, some communities had voter participation of 73 percent of registered voters.

Several polling places were crowded, which left voters waiting to make their choices. They deserve a lot of credit for staying on line to exercise their right to vote and fulfilling their patriotic duty.

No matter how you feel about the results of the election, the high participation delivers a clear message about the feelings of the voters in each state.

While it would be easy enough to say the turnout was the reason for the delay at some polling places, the reasons are likely more complex. Delays might be connected to the many new registrations. Another reason might be voters unfamiliar with the process because they haven’t been to a polling place since local TV reception included four channels and a late-night test pattern.

The reality is that the problems were relatively few, especially considering the turnout. Aside from the people waiting in line, they were the problems that typically happen on Election Day. There was the judge of elections who didn’t show up, delaying the vote at Heights-Martin L. Murray Elementary School in Wilkes-Barre.

There was a machine with a curtain that wouldn’t close, the paperwork that couldn’t be found and an argument at one polling place.

Those typical Election Day problems likely seemed manageable following the dilemmas of extending the deadline for absentee ballots until Election Day and deciding to wait until Nov. 10 for military ballots.

Now, two days after the election, the process continues to go smoothly. A lot of credit goes to the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections, Director Leonard Piazza and an army of poll workers. The latter labored long and hard for little financial reward but great satisfaction. We imagine those poll workers had some delight at seeing so many people voting, as opposed to the apathy that has marked previous elections.

Piazza also deserves credit for some fair decisions and leading the bureau through this election. He’s already talking about the possibility of precinct consolidations to improve the voting process.

It’s easy to conjure the potential debacle if previous leaders of that county office were still in charge during such challenging times.

But let’s not go there. Let’s just credit the effort and long, hard work of poll workers, and the very real interest of voters that made this election one most of us will remember.


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