By JENNIFER LEARN-ANDES
Saturday, March 05, 2005 Page: 3A
WILKES-BARRE – Thousands of people have been removed from Luzerne County’s voter registration rolls as part of the first purge in more than a decade, county Election Bureau Director Leonard Piazza said Friday.
The county had the authority to take the people off the list because they responded to a mailing verifying they had moved outside the county, Piazza said during Friday’s election board meeting. He could not offer a precise number Friday.
Another 5,118 voters who didn’t respond to mailings were put on “inactive” status, which means they must sign a special form at polling places if they want to vote. These voters will be removed from the registration entirely if they don’t vote during the next two federal elections in 2006 and 2008, Piazza said.
As part of the purge, 19,000 notices were sent to people who had filed address changes with a post office from 1994 through 2004, Piazza said. Follow-up mailings were sent to forwarding addresses as an extra precaution.
The county will conduct an annual mailing to voters who have sought postal address changes, Piazza said. A contractor handled the mass mailing, but Piazza hopes to conduct the annual purges in-house to save money.
In other business Friday, the board talked about the possibility of increasing some fees to compensate for revenue lost from municipal filing fees. State law recently prevented counties from charging fees for candidates running for some municipal offices. The law is meant to encourage more people to run, but it also means the county will lose anywhere from $5,000 to $7,500 annually.
Commissioner Todd Vonderheid asked Piazza to study the possibility of computerizing campaign finance reports so people could access that information on the Internet instead of being forced to visit the bureau and paying fees for copies.
Commissioner Greg Skrepenak said commissioners, who also sit on the election board, should look at filling a vacant deputy director job in Piazza‘s office.
“We ask a lot of you,” he told Piazza. “And you’ve been very accommodating. I’ve been very pleased with your efforts but I have a concern, especially with elections coming up, that your office is strapped.”