Driving rain didn’t drive away voters returning their mail-in and absentee ballots via Lebanon County’s new satellite voter registration office on the first day it was open for business.

Two hours after the booth opened at 8:30 a.m. Monday, poll worker Linda Deitzler said about 20 mail-in ballots had been delivered to the temporary satellite elections office, which is a structure just south of the rear entrance of the county municipal building on South 8th Street in Lebanon. 

By around 2 p.m., that number had increased to 50 or 60 ballots, according to county elections director Sean Drasher.

Mail and absentee election ballots can be delivered by voters to that location during regular county business hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The lone exception is Election Day on Tuesday, April 23, when the satellite office will be open the same hours as the polls, which are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Voters may also deliver their mail ballots to the county’s voter registration’s main office on the second floor of the municipal building during these listed hours.

A side view of the county’s temporary satellite mail-in ballot drop off location, which is open Monday through Friday during regular county business hours and extended hours on Election Day on Tuesday, April 23. (James Mentzer)

Several factors prompted Tom Peiffer of Campbelltown and his wife Jan to bring their ballots to this new office, which was created following the elimination earlier this year of a drop box at the main entrance to the rear of the municipal building.

Read More: County commissioners commit to new drive-by drop box for mail-in ballots

Drasher said Peiffer and his wife were among the first voters to return their ballots to the new location. 

“It was convenient and I don’t have to worry about it getting lost in the mail,” said Peiffer, who has been an election poll worker for 20-plus years. “We were coming here for poll worker training and I also brought along my county taxes to pay, so yes, I am one-stop shopping today.”

While the Peiffers walked to the satellite office to deliver their ballots – since they were going inside the municipal building – nearly everyone else delivered theirs from the comfort of their vehicles, according to Deitzler, who had the honor of being the first poll worker to staff it. 

The first voter to bring a ballot was a man who also wanted to deliver his wife’s ballot, which is prohibited by state law. Each voter is required to drop into the mail or deliver their own ballot to the elections office or, in Lebanon County, to the designated satellite office worker stationed in the office.   

“I told him that he can only give me his ballot. He was very understanding and said that wouldn’t be a problem. His wife was in the building, so he said he would have her bring hers,” said Deitzler. “There were a lot of couples, so they were coming in twos, for the most part.”

Sean Drasher sets up prior to the official opening of the count voter registration office’s new satellite location created to gather mail-in and absentee ballots. Drasher said some people believe they can vote at this location, but that is a misnomer. (James Mentzer)

Drasher said one misconception is swirling about the new office.

“Some people think this is a place to vote,” said Drasher. “It is simply a building, a place for poll workers to get out of the kind of weather we’re having today. No voting is taking place there.” 

As of Monday, about 7,000 mail ballots had been requested by the approximate 91,000 registered county voters. Drasher noted that only ballots that are requested by voters are sent from his office to them, meaning that any other mailer that voters may receive concerning mail-in balloting is unsolicited.

The satellite office, which was built and delivered by Myerstown Shed in seven days at a cost of $2,725, has three windows to the rear, two windows on each side, and two windows and a windowed door in front. A multi-view camera under the awning provides security. 

This silver locked box is where mail-in and absentee ballots are placed when brought to the county’s new satellite office. (James Mentzer)

An office chair, small space heater and a silver locked metal box with an opening at the top to deposit ballots are the only furnishings inside the building. Right outside, five parking spaces in the municipal building’s lot have been blocked off with bright orange cones in proximity to the satellite office.

A cone-lined entrance shows drivers where to navigate their vehicles as they drive up to hand off their ballot to the election worker staffing the booth. “Vote Here” signs also help direct drivers to the booth and signs that read “Official Lebanon County Mail-In Ballot Drop Off Location” with the county seal are posted on the booth to inform voters that they are at the right location. 

A woman jumped out of the passenger seat of a SUV while it was still raining hard, watched as Deitzer took her ballot and placed it into the box, then quickly scampered back to the dry interior. Both she and the driver yelled “Thank you!” to Deitzler before driving away.

Meanwhile, inside the municipal building, about 85 of the county’s approximate 450 poll workers were in attendance Monday at one of several two-hour mandatory training sessions that are held prior to every election. 

Drasher said he had a short presentation to give followed by a general question-and-answer session. After that, there was a hands-on training session on the county’s e-poll books, which will be used at every county precinct for the first-time ever for the upcoming election.

During the municipal election last fall, Lebanon County ran an electronic poll book experiment at some voting precincts. Following that successful endeavor, the county’s election board, which consists of the three County Commissioners, voted 2-1 in January to purchase 125 units at a cost of $231,500. Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz was the lone dissenting vote.

Tom Peiffer of Campbelltown, foreground, and other poll workers perform trial runs of on the county’s new electronic poll books. He and his wife were two of the first county voters to use the new satellite office to deliver their mail-in ballots for the Primary Election on Tuesday, April 23. (James Mentzer)

Costs to purchase the e-poll books were covered by state Election Integrity Grant funding, which Drasher noted was $450,000 this year.

“The best sellers of these poll books are the poll workers who used them during the trial run last fall,” said Drasher. “Those poll workers have been telling their colleagues, ‘You have to try these. They are so easy and convenient to use.’”

The electronic books contain the same information as its paper counterpart: names, addresses and birth dates of registered voters. The electronic version also verifies a voter’s status and any issues that may arise. A message would notify the poll worker if the voter had already received a mail-in ballot, if they are in the wrong polling place, or if they need to provide identification.

Later in the day, Drasher told LebTown e-poll training was a success.

“It was great, it went fine, a few people pushed back on (using) them, but overall everything was great,” said Drasher. 

Important Election Dates

  • April 8 – Last day to register to vote (as either a Republican or Democrat).
  • April 16 – Last day to request a mail-in ballot.
  • April 23 – Pennsylvania Primary Election – Polls open 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.
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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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