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Trib editorial: Bogus absentee ballots revealed days before the election

Just days before Tuesday’s election we learn that, for years apparently, Westmoreland County has been sending out absentee ballots based solely on age when age alone isn’t a legally qualifying reason for an absentee ballot.

And now that it’s too late to correct the error, according to Beth Lechman, director of the county’s election bureau, voters older than 65 who mailed in absentee ballots — based on no other criteria except their age — will be allowed to vote in person on Election Day; the illegitimate absentee ballots will be discarded, she said.

Pass the antacids.

Those absentee-ballot applications based solely on age were granted “based on past procedure,” Ms. Lechman said — regardless of state law.

This proverbial fly in the ointment turned up when Democrat officials reviewed absentee ballots in Monessen. Out of 300 absentee ballots requested by Monessen voters, about two-thirds were requested by voters citing only the age “consideration” — which legally isn’t a consideration, according to party lawyer David Millstein. The Westmoreland County Democratic Committee wants to have those absentee ballots disqualified.

Mr. Millstein says he finds it “highly questionable” that the elections bureau would even accept those ballots. No less questionable is how these unqualified absentee ballots could affect the outcome of a referendum in six Westmoreland communities concerning a new 1-mill property tax to support the Greensburg Hempfield Area Library.

It’s a mess, to be sure, that could have been avoided if election officials simply followed the law, which is their mandate — not their option.


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