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Fill county election spots before too late

The collection, counting and certification of votes has usually generated little rancor or controversy in Luzerne County.

Then came the epochal year of 2020, with a handful of mail-in ballots mistakenly discarded by the county Bureau of Elections, dueling demonstrations outside the bureau’s offices and the two GOP members of the Election Board pointlessly voting against the normally pro-forma certification of the Nov. 3 results.

Now, with the May 18 primary looming, the county’s voting apparatus appears unfocused and ill-prepared.

The Election Bureau has lacked a director since December. Two of the five volunteer members of the Election Board have resigned, one noting “the detrimental effect on my mental and physical health and on my family.”

An Elections Inquiry Committee of county council members spent three months examining the operations of the Election Bureau and produced some worthwhile findings and recommendations.

But the committee focused too much time on some members’ unhappiness with the council’s limited oversight over the bureau under the Home Rule Charter and their desire to limit mail-in voting, a debate that belongs on the state, not county, level.

With the primary just three months away, time is growing short for county officials to get the election process, which performed remarkably well on Nov. 3 despite COVID restrictions, a huge turnout and an unprecedented number of mail-in votes, back on track.

County Manager David Pedri, who suspended the search for an election director after the withdrawal of what he considered the most promising candidates in January, needs to get that position filled.

And the county council has to move on getting new Election Board members seated.

May 18 is just around the corner and county officials must act swiftly to ensure that a system is firmly in place to guarantee a fair and competently run election.

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