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Constables need certification to work elections

LOCK HAVEN — Clinton County Commissioners are recommending constables have certification before getting paid to work elections.

“We only want certified constables in our polling places,” said Commissioner Chairman Pete Smeltz.

The issue came to light when the county discovered that four constables who worked the May general primary election were not state certified.

County Solicitor Larry Coploff and Court Administrator Don Powers recommended the county take action on this issue, which commissioners discussed at their meeting Monday.

Smeltz and Commissioner Jeff Snyder want constables to know that if they are not certified, they will not get paid to stand in a polling place all day long.

Constables are elected or appointed law enforcement or peace officers that can arrest for felony crimes and breaches of peace and may service minor arrest warrants, eviction notices or do prisoner transport. Under state law, constables are required to stand at polling places on election day to keep the peace and make sure no qualified voter is prevented from voting. They are the only peace officers allowed on polling premises.

According to information from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the agency’s Bureau of Training Services trains and certifies the state’s elected and appointed constables and deputy constables. This training includes basic and firearms education for constables to achieve certification, which allows them to perform judicial duties and receive payment.

Pennsylvania does not require constables to have certification before being elected; most of them get certified after their election. But in order to be paid to work an election, a constable must be certified.

The county was not going to pay the four uncertified constables who worked the primary election, since it says in writing on their signed release forms that no uncertified constable will be paid.

But the county decided to waive election code temporarily. “Basically, this past election, every constable was paid, strictly because the election board decided there wasn’t ample notification” of payment restrictions to constables before they worked the election, said Kristin Petruzzi, director of elections and voter registrar. Chief Clerk Jann Meyers confirmed this.

Commissioners said there were about eight constables working the polls at the last election. Petruzzi said that was probably true, given that nine constables were elected in the November 2017 election.

Snyder said commissioners would need a way to verify constables have proper certification. He proposed implementing a county policy to determine proof of constable certification before elections.

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