Lehigh County prosecutor suggests election workers monitor mail-in ballot boxes

Written by on September 12, 2022

Lehigh County prosecutor suggests election workers monitor mail-in ballot boxes

By Hayden Mitman
September 12, 2022

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin is dialing back his stance that law enforcement should monitor mail-in ballot boxes.

But he’s still requesting someone be stationed at the ballot boxes in real time.  

Noting he “took some flak” for his earlier stance that he’d like law enforcement officers stationed at county ballot drop boxes, Martin said he would now settle for an employee of the Voter Registration Office doing so.

“Those drop boxes, in my opinion, should be monitored to make sure that the election code is being complied with,” Martin said. “And, if it is monitored, it shouldn’t have to be done by sheriffs or county detectives.” 

Martin also suggested the county’s drop boxes only be available during “normal business hours” of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — for two reasons. 

First, he says he is concerned about the safety of people who use the county’s only 24-hour box – at the Lehigh County Government Center – after dark. 

And Martin said there could be the potential for something more sinister. 

“It is a receptacle into a government building and if somebody wanted to put an incendiary device or something else harmful, like Ricin or something like that, there’s no monitoring that takes place,” Martin said. “So, I don’t think the risk is worth the reward, if you will.” 

He noted that the boxes are under video surveillance, but he’d like them monitored by people. Martin made his requests Monday in a letter to County Executive Phil Armstrong and the rest of the county election board.

“It is my understanding that the county has received approximately $1.2 million to assist with mail-in voting,” Martin said in the letter. “So money to accomplish this monitoring should not be a problem.”

Armstrong told WLVR he couldn’t comment on the issue, due to an outstanding lawsuit from the America First Legal Foundation – a group of former Trump administration officials seeking to make drop boxes only available during weekday business hours. 

Additionally, the lawsuit filed on behalf of four county voters seeks the boxes be monitored to ensure the law is followed.

Armstrong said he feels “confident” about how the county has utilized mail-in ballot boxes at the county’s five locations in the past. 

Leading up to this year’s primary election in May, Martin enacted a plan to have county detectives occasionally monitor the boxes after an investigation by his office found more than 300 people last fall deposited more than one ballot in the boxes – a violation of state law.


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