Last Wednesday, the Lancaster County Board of Elections approved a policy designed to remove media members from the county’s election center on election night and move them to an adjacent building.
The policy is intended to provide more space for voting materials in the warehouse at Burle Industries business park that serves as the county’s elections center, and provide reporters with an area in which they can work until all results are tabulated. Any change in election procedures is bound to arouse media concerns.
But when Mary Stehman, the county’s chief elections clerk said the media would be allowed only in the area designated for them, not in the elections center, this became an issue of greater significance. It would have been a violation of the state’s Election Code. And it evoked the kind of response the public expects from those who gather the news: Outrage. Thursday, county solicitor Melvin Newcomer corrected that misperception.
“There is nothing in this policy,” he said, “that limits the ability of the media to be right where they have to be under the Election Code.” Indeed, the county’s own written policy states, “The news media shall have access to the first floor of the warehouse, or designated space, on a not-to-interfere basis with Board efforts.” Friday, Stehman characterized her prior remarks as a “misunderstanding.”