Election 2016

In October, I was asked by Professor Joseph Mistick of the Duquesne University School of Law, to lecture to his Election Law class, something that I have done before. This was a privilege, both since Professor Mistick also invites judges and elected officials to speak and as the law students were an attentive group.

My remarks covered some historical background, from distributing and discussing a Pittsburgh Press headline from a September, 1931 primary election reporting about riots in the Pittsburgh area, claims of voting machine malfunctions and a shooting incident between a constable and a police officer in the Scranton, Pennsylvania area. Additionally we reviewed Presidential Election voter turnout percentages through the years. The high water mark was in 1960 with an 87.9% voter turnout. Nine out of ten registered voters voted! Compare that with 2016 voter turnout of 70%.  While there might be more registered voters on the rolls, clearly fewer people vote, both in a presidential election, as well as local elections.

I discussed current election procedures including absentee and provisional ballots, and potential election day issues, such as voter intimidation, firearms at the polls (which is permitted except in schools or court buildings) and the rights and limitations of poll watchers (observe but not to electioneer or affect the voting.)

Concluding my remarks was my statement that there is no voter fraud in Allegheny County. That is, the people that vote are who they are and that they are properly registered and qualified to vote, where they vote.

Election Day 2016 bore my statement out. I have been the attorney for the Allegheny County Division of Elections and the Allegheny County Board of Elections for almost three decades. My task on Election Day is to represent the County, along with other County attorneys, in “Election Court.” A judge is on duty the entire time that the polls are open. Attorneys field hundreds of phone calls from polling places and political groups. Each party and presidential candidate sends legal representation to Election Court. While there were frequent disputes, some of which required a judge to issue an order of court, none of those disputes were unusual and none of those disputes and complaints were regarding “voter fraud.”

Our system of voting works and is fair and honest. There can be human errors and a precious few technical glitches, but those permitted to vote can vote. Those not permitted to vote, do not vote. Every vote is tabulated, both on election night, when unofficial results are publicized, and upon official tabulation by the County Return Board.

While perhaps I have been part of the election system for too long, I ask that you all consider and accept that the voting system works properly.

– Allan Opsitnick

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Author: opsitnickslaw

Allan J. Opsitnick J.D. and B.A. Degrees, University of Pittsburgh

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