Lebanon County Commissioners voted at their biweekly meeting Thursday to consider the use of a staff-monitored drop box to collect mail-in ballots during the 2024 election cycle.

A tentative plan, which will be considered at their next meeting on March 7, would provide a satellite voter registration location in the parking lot of the county municipal building on 8th Street, Lebanon. 

In a project summary provided to the press, the outdoor voter registration office would be staffed during regular county business hours so voters can deliver individual ballots – and any proxy ballots they have with this form – from the comfort of their cars. The form is for voters with a disability as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“This would be a significant improvement over the old drop box. It would be both secure and more convenient for voters,” the summary document states.  

The removal of the original drop box, which was at the entrance to the county building for the past seven elections, became a controversial decision with county voters and the American Civil Liberties Union after commissioners voted 2-1 on Jan 18 to end its use. 

Lebanon County Commissioner Mike Kuhn, standing left, reads emails he received from people opposed to the removal of the county’s mail-in drop box and one in favor of its removal. Most of the voters who jammed the meeting room opposed the Jan. 18 vote to stop its use. (James Mentzer)

That vote was along party lines, with Republican commissioners Bob Phillips and Mike Kuhn voting in favor and Democrat Jo Ellen Litz opposing its removal. Both Republican commissioners expressed security concerns in voting for its removal, but Litz said the box was secure given the three security cameras that monitored it. 

Although he voted to remove the original box, Election Board chairman Kuhn told LebTown in a follow-up article published on Jan. 29 that he was exploring options to address his security concerns while also making it more convenient for voters who choose to drop off their ballot instead of placing it in the mail.

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Commissioners on Thursday unanimously authorized county administrator Jamie Wolgemuth and Sean Drasher, director of Voter Registration/Elections, to present on March 7 a plan to establish a new drive-by drop box. 

The vote requires them to address staffing needs, find an appropriate outdoor facility, and present all associated costs with the goal of having it operational beginning with the 2024 primary election in April.

Commissioner Bob Phillips shows the authorization form for the designated agent to help deliver a voter’s mail-in ballot to the county election office or drop box, which may be replaced with a drive-by drop box in 2024. (Photo by James Mentzer)

Although commissioners normally meet on the first and third Thursdays of each month, the first Thursday in March is three weeks away because Leap Year falls on Thursday, Feb. 29. 

Before the consideration vote for a new drive-by drop box was taken, the commissioners, who also serve on the Elections Board, voted 2-1 to affirm their Jan. 18 removal decision since legal questions had arisen over the past month about that action.  

The ACLU filed a complaint with commissioners stating that the county had not properly advertised the drop-box discussion as required by the Sunshine Act. Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act requires agencies to deliberate and take official action in open and public meetings and that those meetings must have proper prior notification.

The ACLU contends the county did not properly advertise the Jan. 18 vote for at least three days, but county solicitor Matthew Bugli said it was properly advertised in a local newspaper. Following discussions between the county and the ACLU, both parties agreed that the ratification vote would make the Jan. 18 decision legal. 

“The ACLU had made an allegation and in contact with the attorneys from the ACLU I had indicated that was no need to file any complaint, no need for this to go to court and that the proper procedure under case law to rectify a Sunshine Act – an alleged violation or a violation – is to take action at a subsequent meeting,” said Bugli.

After the consideration vote was taken, Litz – who has been an adamant supporter for the original drop box to be returned – made a motion to reinstate it. Her motion, however, died for a lack of a second by her colleagues. 

In making her motion, Litz expressed support for the drive-by drop box and said the original drop box would be an alternative if the new one didn’t work out or issues were encountered with its use. 

The two votes came after an extensive public comment period from voters who packed the commissioner’s meeting room. When asked by Kuhn if they were there in support of having a drop box, a majority of attendees raised their hands. 

During the comment period, two individuals spoke in support of the box’s removal. Rachel Moyer of Jackson Township, who is an ELCO school board member and is running against Rep. Russ Diamond for his state House seat, thanked commissioners for removing the box, noting state law does not require counties to have a drop box for voters.

A vast majority of attendees were opposed to the drop box’s removal and despite efforts by chairman Kuhn to move forward with the drive-by drop box presentation, which he said he believed they would support, many still chose to air their concerns.

While several stated health issues as a reason to have the drop box, others said they appreciate the convenience it affords them, especially when they don’t trust the U.S. postal system to deliver their ballot to the elections office. All mail-in ballots must be in the hands of election officials when the polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.  

Gary Gates of Palmyra said the decision to remove the drop box was feeding into the lies perpetuated by former President Donald Trump, who has called into question the integrity of the U.S. election system. He challenged commissioners to state cases of fraud happening in Lebanon County.

Both Republican commissioners said they have faith in local elections and the county’s election workers, with Phillips reiterating that he was told after the Jan. 18 meeting that voters had placed more than one ballot into the drop box. Phillips also said one person in the room had told him they had broken state law by placing a ballot other than their own into the box. 

Asked later who the individual was – and whether it was a colleague – Phillips demurred in a text message, saying he thought he recognized one of those individuals in the audience. 

LebTown asked all three commissioners if they had ever placed more than one ballot into the drop box or on behalf of someone else. 

Phillips and Kuhn said they have never used the drop box themselves or for anyone else, and Litz said she assisted her husband, when he was injured, deliver his to the county building. She couldn’t remember, however, whether they took his mail-in ballot to the elections office on the second floor or if they had placed it in the drop box. 

Sean Drasher, director, Voter Registration/Elections, explains the proposed drive-by mail-in ballot drop box, that will be manned by the county, during an Election Board meeting on Thursday. (James Mentzer)

In non-election county business, commissioners:

  • Signed a utility easement agreement with Mt. Gretna Heights, Inc., for a well that serves the community and sits about 30 feet over the property line of the Clarence Schock Memorial Park at Governor Dick. Residents had aired concerns in a story exclusively covered by LebTown that the original easement agreement, first issued in 2002, had never been filed with the county government.
  • Adopted an amendment that’s effective immediately to extend the term of existence of the County of Lebanon Transit Authority for a period not to exceed 50 years.
  • Received a fourth-quarter pension fund update from Lebanon-based investment advisers Stifel and reviewed an investment policy statement. The investment firm recommended making no changes to the investment policy, and commissioners agreed without taking a formal vote to renew the agreement for 2024.
  • Granted 13 fiscal year 2023-24 provider contract amendments – six early interventions, six intellectual disabilities, and one mental health – for the Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention department. Amendments totaled $130,950 and are covered by existing funding, meaning there is no additional cost to taxpayers.
  • Appointed Josephine Ames of Annville as chair of the AMERICA250PA Commission in Lebanon County as part of a statewide initiative to celebrate the upcoming 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States. Ames, the wife of former Lebanon County Commissioner Bill Ames, who passed away in December 2021, is a member of the Visit Lebanon Valley board, the tourist bureau in charge of overseeing this effort on behalf of Lebanon County. This is a voluntary position without compensation, created to help plan county participation in upcoming celebrations for the anniversary in 2026.
  • Accepted three hotel tax grant fund request applications. Commissioners gave $7,500 for a project costing $24,000 to the Mount Gretna School of Art for repairs in bathroom and shower facilities for artist housing for the annual residential art program; $5,000 of a projected cost of $8,807 to Mount Gretna Area Historical Society for upgrades to the research library; and $10,000 of a projected $14,000 cost to the Community of Lebanon Association for the purchase and maintenance of hanging plants and basket pots in downtown Lebanon, to be performed by Stony Bridge Landscaping, Lebanon. 
  • Renewed the appointments of Michael Battistelli to the board of the Lebanon Community Library and Marie Hibshman to the board at the Richland Community Library. Both terms run through Dec. 31, 2026.
  • Ratified a proclamation for the Scout BSA Expo to recognize “Scout Week” for the Boy Scouts of America, which was held the week of Feb. 5-9, 2024. 
  • Approved the minutes of their Feb. 1 meeting and their Feb. 7 workshop, the treasurer’s report and various personnel transactions.
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James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; Lancaster...


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