Rep. Houlahan, Secretary of State Chapman Answer Questions About Voting Process

Mail Ballot

WEST CHESTER, PA — Thursday evening, Representative Chrissy Houlahan hosted a Voter Services Telephone Town Hall in response to a rise in phone calls and emails to her office from constituents about the process for voting in the upcoming election. To help her address questions specific to Pennsylvania and Chester County in particular, Houlahan was joined by Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of State Leigh M. Chapman and Chester County Director of Voter Services Karen Barsoum. Berks County currently does not have a Director of Voter Services.

“Representing a purple community means educating all community members, regardless of political affiliation, on how to cast their ballot,” said Houlahan. “[We] had a straightforward conversation about the voting process and answered questions on a wide range of concerns. I will continue to share resources with all constituents who reach out, and I encourage all eligible Pennsylvanians to exercise their constitutional right to vote.”

“I enjoyed hearing from voters and appreciated the opportunity to directly answer their questions about the commonwealth’s elections to ensure they know how to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” Acting Secretary of State Leigh M. Chapman said. “One of the Department of State’s top priorities is meeting voters where they are and providing them with the information they need to be able to cast their ballot and have it counted.”

In her opening remarks, Director Karen Barsoum shared: “My job as the director of voter services is to conduct a fair and secure, accurate and impartial election in Chester County. We ask everyone to make a plan to participate in the upcoming election, to participate in the various methods. Our department, the department I manage, consists of twenty-seven staff members, and we depend on many other resources from our county, and other county departments within Chester County and especially our poll workers to conduct these elections.”

READ:  Chester County Teen Awarded Scholarship for Mental Health Advocacy

After brief introductions, Houlahan, Acting Secretary Chapman, and Director Barsoum answered questions on a range of topics related to voting. The entire recording in available on Houlahan’s website while a sampling of questions asked is below:

Robert from Chester County asked: “Last year I was away on business, and I had to use a mail-in ballot. This year, I was mailed a mail-in ballot, never requested it…What is the problem?”

Director Barsoum responded to Robert’s question about mail-in ballots, and trust in our elections, explaining: “Pennsylvania has a permanent status on people’s voting records, which is a reminder system that runs every year where you receive a [mail-in ballot] application in January or February, and if you do fill out that application, you will be automatically put in the queue to receive a [mail-in] ballot for all elections for which you are eligible in a given year.”

In this way, one could receive a mail-in ballot that one wasn’t necessarily expecting. Finally, Dir. Barsoum concluded that if Robert or anyone else wanted to confirm their ballot, whether cast in person or by mail, was counted in a given election that the county government maintains a poll book recording who has voted in each, and that the department is more than willing to do that for anyone who calls them.

Constituents also asked drop box locations and their security. Dir. Barsoum explained that since 2020, Chester County has multiple ballot drop boxes located across the county, and their addresses are available online. These drop boxes are staffed and monitored with cameras to ensure they remain secure.

Additionally, Nathan from Phoenixville asked about reports of armed police officers at drop box locations to question voters. Acting Secretary Chapman responded “The Department of State is aware of that plan in Berks County, and when we were first made aware in September, I sent a letter to the sheriff of Berks County addressing my concerns with the potential for voter intimidation… We are waiting to see what the outcome of the decision from Berks County is, but it is something we are monitoring.”

READ:  Chester County Weather Forecast: A Week of Weather Wonders

Another constituent asked about the federal legislation before Congress, specifically wondering about efforts to recodify the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which has had its provisions diminished by several recent court rulings. Rep. Houlahan explained that indeed the U.S. House had passed a piece of legislation known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. This bill would restore much of these protections, but that the legislation has not been taken up by the U.S. Senate.

Throughout the event, Acting Secretary of State Chapman and Director Barsoum emphasized that elections in Pennsylvania are safe and secure, and that every voter should take advantage of their preferred method to cast their ballot this November.

Other topics at the event ranged from the opportunities for voters to fix any mistakes made on their ballot, to ensuring the results of the election are honored by the Pennsylvania legislature, to whether Pennsylvania will have election results available on election night.

If voters have further questions, they can contact the Chester County Department of Voter Services at (610) 344-6410 and online at https://www.chesco.org/156/Voter-Services, the Berks County Department of Voter Services at (610) 478-6490 and online at https://www.co.berks.pa.us/Dept/Elections/Pages/default.aspx, as well as the PA Department of State at 1 (877) 868-3772 or online at https://www.vote.pa.gov/.

The full audio recording of the event can be found here.

For the latest news on everything happening in Chester County and the surrounding area, be sure to follow MyChesCo on Google News and Microsoft Start.