Spanish ballots to be discussed at Luzerne County Electoral Committee meeting

The Luzerne County Elections Committee is expected to discuss Spanish-language ballots at its Wednesday meeting, officials said.

An increase in the number of Spanish-speaking residents prompted county election officials to begin offering Spanish ballots in the April 2012 election, according to earlier reports. Officials say Luzerne County is not among those required to provide language assistance under the state voting rights law based on the population of non-English-speaking residents.

County Electoral Officer Michael Susek said the problem arose because the county’s voting equipment provider, Dominion Voting Systems Inc., asked him if he wanted a Spanish version when scheduling the ballots for an April 5 special election to fill a vacant state representative seat in the 116th Legislative District.

Susek, who was hired as chief electoral officer in December, said he did not want to rely solely on past practices and asked for a directive on how to proceed. The county’s legal division concluded that the decision should be made by the volunteer citizen election board.

Research is still ongoing into how ballots are translated, who does this work and if there are any additional costs, Susek said.

Election committee chair Denise Williams said she wanted to discuss the latest statistics and would share her views at Wednesday’s meeting and listen to feedback from fellow council members and citizens.

Wednesday’s meeting begins at 5 p.m. at the County Courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre, with instructions for remote participation posted under the Authority, Board and Commission Online Meetings link on alfalfacounty.org.

Council vacancy

The county council should return to 11 members this week.

At Tuesday’s voting meeting, council members must nominate a Republican to fill the council seat vacated by Walter Griffith now that he is comptroller.

The 12 candidates under consideration: Carl Bienias III, Hanover Township; Dave Chaump, West Pittston; Thomas Dombroski, Dallas; Greg Griffin, Swoyersville; David Kelley, Laflin; Ron Knapp, Nanticoke; Bill Levinson, Wilkes Barre; Jessica Morgan, Dallas; Richard Nardone, Township of Slocum; John Newman, Nanticoke; Jared O’Donnell, Township of Butler; and Arthur Savokinas, Township of Pittston.

Board appointments

Tuesday’s agenda also indicates that the Council of States will appoint citizens to vacant seats on councils, authorities and commissions.

Action is needed as some positions have been vacant since the end of last year. The county’s self-government charter allows citizens to go to court if the council does not fill vacancies within 60 days, meaning the selection would then fall to county judges.

Among the vacancies: two seats on the electoral committee made up of five citizens – a Republican and a Democrat.

On the Republican side, the candidates are Nardone, Candice Chilek and Alyssa Fusaro. Nardone held the board seat for the last time and was publicly interviewed to be considered for a new term. He also interviewed for the council vacancy.

Seven Democrats are on the eligibility list for a possible nomination: Kathleen McCarthy, David Newman, Michelle Pack, Danny Schramm, Patrick Smith, Renee Taffera and Peter Wolman.

An updated report showing the number of vacancies in each council and the citizens currently on the eligibility list is posted under the council authorities, councils and commissions link at alfalfacounty.org.

Annual Report

Acting County Executive Romilda Crocamo will present the annual “state of the county” report during Tuesday’s business session, which follows the 6 p.m. voting meeting.

This report is required by the charter.

Vacation

County government buildings will be closed Monday for Presidents Day.

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