Berks County ballot drop box

READING, Pa. — The Berks County Board of Elections on Thursday voted to require sheriff deputies, stationed at the county's two mail-in voter drop boxes, to ask voters if their ballot is signed and dated.

Although the matter did not appear on the agenda, Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach said it was just brought to his attention that when a voter takes his or her mail-in ballot to the county's elections office, the officials check before taking the ballot to make sure it is signed and dated.

Leinbach suggested that having the deputies also check for a date and signature would reflect what is being done at the elections office.

Commissioner Michael S. Rivera agreed.

"If we're looking at consistency between the drop boxes and dropping it off at Election Services, I would be agreeable to doing that as well," Rivera said. "That way, we're making sure that what's happening at the Election Services desk is the same thing happening at the drop boxes as well."

Commissioner Kevin S. Barnhardt said he completely agreed with his colleagues but noted that it is important that the deputies not actually take or touch the envelope, and that the voter himself deposits the ballot into the drop box.

The resolution noted that stipulation.

Berks County has two drop box locations. One is located at the Berks County Services Center on Reed Street in downtown Reading; the other is at the Berks County Agricultural Center at 1238 County Welfare Rd. in Bern Township. Both have deputies stationed at the boxes during the hours that they are accessible for the public.

In another matter, the board heard a question from Anthony Orozco, Reading, asking how Election Services is preparing to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking voters and voters with hyphenated Spanish last names.

Silvia Gutierrez, the county's chief registrar, explained that the electronic poll books can function by looking up a voter by the first name, date of birth or last name. If the last name is hyphenated, Gutierrez said the search can be made using one of the names.

Rivera also noted that any polling locations that are considered to be bilingual will have interpreters on hand to meet the needs of the Spanish-speaking voters.

"If there is a polling location that someone goes to and it's not [identified] as bilingual, they will be able to call the Election Services number and there will be interpreters available to assist them over the phone," Rivera said. "Also, if someone does not feel comfortable speaking in English, they are able to take a friend or family member with them to the polls. There is a form that needs to be filled out and completed for that person to be able to go and help them through the process at the polling location."

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