Illegal Campaign Activity in Berks County

Kirk called me about his observation of illegal campaign activity so I drove into Reading to do some further investigation.  I wanted to confirm what had happened and give Judge Michael Leonardziak an opportunity to comment.  As I drove down the street past Southern Middle School I observed two campaign workers violating the ten foot rule.  No political activity can, by law, occur on election day within ten feet of a polling place.  I’ve been to this poll many times on many election days observing turnout so I knew these campaign workers were in violation.  I went around the block, parked and went in to speak with the Judge of Elections.

I asked her if she was allowing campaign activity inside her poll and she denied it at first before admitting, several times, “we let them inside the foyer”, clearly a violation of the law.  I aske dher why she was letting people violate the law and she began screaming at me and denying this was a violation.  The polls are directly inside the inner door so letting campaign workers inside or even just outside that door as I personally observed while entering the building, is illegal.

Judges of Election should know the law.  This woman screamed at me then ordered me out.  While I was still just inside the same foyer where she allowed politicking, she shoved me out the door amidst threats to have me arrested.  A Constable called me soon after for my side of the story and I inquired as to whether he would arrest her for assault.  

The campaign workers remained in violation when I drove away.

I then went to Amanda Stoudt Elementary School where Kirk had been given campaign literature when he entered the polling place this morning.  Inside the polling place a campaign worker for Reading Mayoral candidate Francis Acosta handed me political literature.  I went to the Judge of Elections there and asked her why someone gave me political material inside her polling place.  She was clueless and thought I was talking about Kirk’s experience earlier.  After explaining that is why I entered her poll I explained that it had just happened again.  I asked her why she didn’t know what was happening inside her poll.  She didn’t have an answer other than to say she allowed these people to enter the poll to use the bathrooms.  That’s illegal.  No one wearing any political buttons, stickers, or other ID can ever be inside a polling place on election day.

I then went to Acosta headquarters to ask why they let a campaign worker hand me material inside a poll.  V. Kurt Bellman, a former Berks County Elections Commissioner took the piece from me and asked several questions to ascertain there had, indeed, been a violation of law.  For those of you familiar with relations between Kurt and me you’ll appreciate the deliciousness of that moment.

District Judge Leonardziak allowed a campaign worker to violate the law.  Did he not instruct his election day workers on the law?  He’s a JUDGE for crying out loud and this goes directly to his fitness for office.  So far he hasn’t called me to explain the illegal activity on his behalf.  I went to his office and left my card.

This all follows the embarrassment of the Berks County Elections Board, composed of Common Pleas Court Judges, for sending to the District Attorney a bogus complaint from another District Judge candidate.  The rule on which the complaint was based was declared unconstitutional.  Does anyone, even Judges, in Berks County, know election law?  Or do they just not care?

Update:  I called Berks County Election Services and spoke with Deb Olivieri, Elections Commissioner, and she took care of everything.  She called me back to say she discussed my concerns with both precincts and dealt with the problems.  It has be frustrating because Deb does a very good job and she holds trainings for these people before each election.   They then go out and ignore everything.

The problem here is the quality of people they get for poll workers.  The jobs are hell because of the extremely long days and low rate of pay.  Perhaps if counties paid a decent wage to poll workers they’d attract better people.  Meanwhile they have to deal with those they get and these tend to be retired people who have the time to work on Tuesdays.  On average I believe they get around $90 for working from 7 AM to 9PM.  Therein is the problem.

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